We Must Prevent Approval of 2,4-D Resistant Soy and Corn

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By Mark Keating, OFRF Policy Consultant

In a major development in the escalating controversy over genetically engineered (GE) crops, the USDA has released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for two varieties of soybeans and one of corn which are resistant to the highly toxic herbicide 2,4-D.  In a disturbing move, the USDA is recommending the unrestricted release of all three varieties, thereby paving the way for their potential planting on millions of acres.  

The resistance to 2,4-D, engineered into the three varieties is a “stacked” trait, since they are also resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) and can withstand simultaneous applications of both herbicides.  The three varieties covered by the DEIS are produced by Dow AgroSciences under the trade name “Enlist”. 

The stakes for organic farmers and their supporters have never been greater – if USDA allows the DEIS to stand as written, we can anticipate a staggering three-fold increase in 2,4-D usage to more than 100 million pounds annually. 2,4-D was a core component of “Agent Orange,” the toxic defoliant used on Vietnam and has been independently associated with deadly immune system cancers, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, and reproductive problems.  Additionally 2,4-D can volatilize easily and travel significant distances, thereby increasing the likelihood of drift resulting in off-farm contamination.

Why would farmers choose to revert to the failed pesticides of yesterday when the biotechnology industry constantly promotes GE crops as the wave of the future?  The bitter truth is that the widespread emergence of “superweeds”, brought on by the overuse of glyphosate-tolerant crops, is forcing chemical-dependent farmers back to the more toxic herbicides they thought they had left behind. It’s a no-win cycle: Farmers plant glyphosate-resistant soy, corn and cotton, giving rise to glyphosate resistant “superweeds” which choke equipment. Then they are offered new strains of 2,4-D resistant crops. What happens when the 2,4-D resistant “superweeds” get the upper hand?  What chemical will be dragged out of storage then? Developing these crops requires genetically manipulating the corn and soybean seeds (and new cotton varieties in the pipeline) to withstand both glyphosate and 2,4-D. Who benefits? Dow AgroSciences, and not farmers, consumers, or nature.

There are superior organic and sustainable weed management practices including crop rotation, rotational grazing and conservation tillage that could spare us this reckless return to the discredited pesticide 2,4-D.  For more than twenty years, OFRF has worked with organic farmers to develop, refine and implement such practices which will sustain human health and the land as well.  We expect USDA to soon announce the opening of a forty-five day comment period on the DEIS and it is imperative that we present a clear and compelling case in opposition to the unconditional release of these new varieties and others moving through regulatory review. Watch for an OFRF action alert as soon as the comment period is announced. See OFRF’s GM policy Here.

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