Public consumer groups and the concerned public have protested the development of a next generation of genetically modified corn and soybeans developed by Dow Agrosciences. The plant called Enlist combines a 60-year-old herbicide component known as 2,4-D with glyphosate, the chief ingredient in Roundup; a herbicide produced by Monsanto.
The use of 2,4-D can cause potential health and environmental problems, including increasing weed resistance. Medical and scientific experts testifying in front of Congress advised Congress that the herbicide and the corresponding herbicide genetically resistant engineered crops would constitute a pubic health risk and cause an environmental catastrophe.
Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co, has submitted application for both the 2,4-D and glyphosate herbicide and genetically engineered corn and soybean seeds genetically engineered to be resistant to the 2,4-D/glyphosate combination.
The following excerpts are briefings made to the U.S. congress by prominent scientific and medical experts.
“Exposures to herbicides in early life can lead to disease in childhood or disease later on in adult life or even old age,” said Dr. Landrigan, dean for global health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “Herbicide chemicals can also cross from mother to child during pregnancy and prenatal exposures that occur during the nine months of pregnancy are especially dangerous.”
“Physicians are very concerned about exposure to the combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate because of the potential lifelong and irreversible effects on the health of vulnerable populations, including children, pregnant women and farm workers,” said Dr. Thomasson, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Policy decisions should take into account the costs that can result from failure to act on the available data on toxic herbicides.”
“2,4-D already is permitted by EPA to remain as residues on over 300 different forms of food,” said John P. Wargo, Ph.D., professor of environmental health and politics at Yale University. “Spraying millions of additional acres with these chemicals will increase their contamination of soils, surface and groundwater and foods bearing their residues. If applied by aircraft, sprays will drift to adjacent lands, potentially endangering those who reside, go to school or work nearby.”
“The biotech industry is about to repeat the same mistakes that got us into this predicament,” said Doug Gurian Sherman, Ph.D, senior scientist with Center for Food Safety. “The public must demand policies and research that help farmers adopt proven, ecologically-based farming systems with minimal pesticide use that are productive, profitable and better for society.”
“The toxic herbicide mix is being proposed because glyphosate alone is no longer working, since its overuse has led to the development of herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm and Just Label It. “This ‘chemical treadmill’ benefits the GE patent holders at the expense of farmers, human health and the environment.”
In June, 35 doctors, scientists and researchers, including Dr. Chensheng (Alex) Lu of Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. Raymond Richard Neutra, a retired division chief of the California Department of Public Health, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urging her to deny Dow’s application.
“The risks of approving a new 2,4-D mixture are clear,” said Mary Ellen Kustin, senior policy analyst at the Environmental Working Group. “If approved, the use of 2,4-D would increase three-to-sevenfold by 2020, according to the USDA. The risks are too great and benefits too few to jeopardize public health and the environment.”
On Wednesday the USDA approved Enlist despite a vociferous protest by the concerned public, medical experts and scientists. The product is expected to be on the market for 2015 planting season. The Environmental Protection Agency has not yet approved the Enlist herbicide.
Heavy used of Roundup has triggered an explosion of super weeds that are resistant to the herbicide and the so-called “super weeds” now infest roughly 70 million acres of U.S. farmland, according to Dow.
Environmentalists have pointed out that introducing the Enlist herbicide will cause considerable environmental damage producing yet another generation of super weeds.
“The USDA approval of Enlist after such a fundamentally flawed review process is a slap in the face to farmers,” said Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network (PAN). “Thousands of farmers have warned USDA of the crop damage, economic losses and health risks they will face from pesticide drift, if these 2,4-D resistant seeds hit the market.”