EPA opens the chemical flood gates: 'Agent Orange' herbicide to be approved
After nearly a year of intense public comments and industry lobbying, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy is expected to announce the approval of Dow Chemical's Enlist Duo herbicide for use on millions of acres of US farmland early next week.
Enlist is a new weed control system consisting of genetically modified (GM) corn and soybeans designed to withstand applications of the new Enlist Duo herbicide, which is composed of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup) and 2,4-D, a component of Vietnam-era defoliant Agent Orange.
Dow Chemical created the Enlist system in response to the evolution of so-called 'superweeds' caused by the over-application of glyphosate on genetically modified crops. Farmers have applied increasing amounts of herbicides to control weeds since the approval of GM crops in the late 1990s, causing what many have described as a 'pesticide gusher'. With the addition of the more powerful chemical 2,4-D, Dow hopes to allow farmers to eradicate the herbicide-resistant weeds from their fields, at least in the short term. They also stand to steal some market share away from Monsanto, whose patent on Roundup Ready crops expires next year.
More than 86 percent of corn and soybean growers in the southeastern United States and 61 percent in the Midwest reported hard-to-control weeds on their farms, according to Dow. This represents an incredible number of herbicide-resistant weeds evolving after just 19 years of farming genetically modified crops in the United States.
Yet biotech and chemical companies are still optimistic that they can solve the problems they created with more biotechnology and more chemicals.
"Enlist Duo herbicide will help solve the weed control challenges growers are facing and will be another option to further reduce the potential for development of herbicide-resistant weeds," said Damon Palmer, Dow's commercial leader for the U.S. market.
Critics of biotechnology are quick to point out that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and their companion chemicals have never been fully evaluated for human safety, and in fact the majority of safety testing is done by the chemical companies themselves, with little independent review. Enlist Duo is no exception.
"Biotechnology is taking agriculture backwards by facilitating a massive increase in use of this toxic herbicide, which formed part of Agent Orange used in Vietnam," said Bill Freese, a science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety.
Dr. Mehmet Oz also came out against the approval of the new chemical/GMO system, linking 2,4-D to birth defects, Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cancer, and other health problems.
Astonishingly, the EPA is set to sign off on Enlist Duo despite more than 100 thousand petition signatures against its approval. As of Wednesday night, October 9, dozens of public interest groups were still organizing their supporters to call Administrator McCarthy in protest of the approval. And the decision to advance the chemical system towards full deregulation also flies in face of warnings by medical doctors, scientists, and even 50 members of Congress.
Considering the history of GMOs and chemical herbicides in the US, the public can expect that new superweeds will arise in short order, requiring even more chemicals and GMOs to control. The floodgates have been opened to a never-ending cycle of increasingly powerful chemicals and untested biotech crops. Surely Administrator McCarthy understands that this "chemical arms race" with nature can never be won and is not sustainable.