Reclaiming the future of food and farming

2,4-D crops rubberstamped

Linda Wells's picture

It's official. EPA and USDA have both evaluated Dow Chemical's new line of 2,4-D-resistant seeds, Enlist, and have approved both the seeds and the accompanying pesticide formulation for market.

This is a turning point, not just for grain production, but for food production in the U.S. and internationally. The introduction of Enlist corn and soybeans, and the widespread adoption of this new seed line, will have pervasive impacts on farmer livelihoods, public health and control of our food system.

This is a decision that our regulators should not have taken lightly. And yet, it seems they did. Both USDA and EPA set up an intentionally narrow scope for evaluating the potential harms posed by 2,4-D resistant crops — one that ignored the biggest problems and held up irrelevant factors as evidence of safety.

As small farmers brace for the impact of pesticide drift that will hit with the introduction of Enlist crops, it is time for us to look forward. It's time to demand a regulatory system that takes a rigorous approach to pesticides and genetically engineered crops, one that values small farmers as much as industrial agriculture — and public health as much as corporate profit.

It's a set up

Dow Chemical's Enlist seeds and pesticides passed this approval process with relative ease, despite extended public outcry from farmers, health professionals and communities across the country.

Dow, and the other "Big 6" global pesticide corporations, would have us believe that this was a drawn-out, rigorous process that once again proves the safety and necessity of GE crops. The reality is that the whole process was a tricky sleight-of-hand: Enlist passed the test because the test itself was set up to be a cake-walk.

From the beginning, opponents of 2,4-D-resistant crops have focused on three main objections:

  1. Enlist crops will mean a massive increase in the use of the toxic and volatile chemical 2,4-D. Neighboring farms, especially those that grow fruits and vegetables, will be put at risk for increased crop damage. Their livelihoods will be threatened, and fruit and vegetable production will become an even riskier venture for U.S. farmers.
     
  2. Rural exposure to 2,4-D will also increase to unprecedented levels. 2,4-D is linked to cancer and reproductive harm, among other negative impacts. USDA itself predicts 2,4-D use in corn and soybean production to increase between 500% and 1,400% over the course of nine years.
     
  3. Dow is presenting Enlist as the answer to farmer's prayers about "superweeds," an economic must-have that outweighs any side effects. But the truth is that superweeds were caused by Monsanto's RoundUp Ready seed line, the current king of pesticide-resistant crops — and there's nothing to stop weeds from developing resistance to 2,4-D just as they have to glyphosate, RoundUp's active ingredient. USDA needs to invest in real solutions for weed management, not allow this false solution to exacerbate the problem.

And of these major points, how many were accounted for in the approval process run by USDA and EPA? Not a single one.

Agency hot potato

What happened? Well, to Administrators Tom Vilsack (USDA) and Gina McCarthy (EPA), when it comes to evaluating the safety of new GE crops, apparently the buck stops — somewhere else. Each agency accepted the narrowest possible interpretation of its responsibilities to safeguard our fields and families.

USDA essentially decided to only look at the damage that GE seeds themselves would cause, ignoring the threat of pesticide drift entirely — and passing the onus of evaluating pesticide-related issues to EPA. 

Meanwhile, EPA did a rather shoddy job of addressing the health impacts of this dramatic increase in 2,4-D use. McCarthy didn't consider the cumulative damage that will result from repeated 2,4-D exposures, and instead insisted that 2,4-D health impacts in general had already been evaluated by a previous process. As for crop damage from pesticides, well, crop damage is USDA's domain. So EPA didn't consider that issue at all.

And neither Vilsack nor McCarthy tackled the one of the biggest questions: Why would we put a product on the market that's going to make superweeds even more out of control? As stated in a recent LA Times editorial:

No agency looks at the bigger policy question of whether the nation is embarking on a potentially dangerous path toward creating ever-more resistant weeds and spraying them and crops with larger and larger doses of stronger herbicides. That question should be answered before the country escalates the war out in the fields.

Hear, hear.

Do better.

It's time to intercept this game of agency hot-potato with clearly defined directives for protecting farmers and rural families. PAN is joining allies in demanding that USDA and EPA produce a new, more robust process for the approval of GE crops — one that considers the full implications of new GE products before they hit the market, from pesticide drift to cumulative impacts.

No distractions, no loopholes. Let's take our food and farming system seriously, and make decisions based on all of the facts.

Take action » Join PAN and partners in calling on President Obama to step in and keep 2,4-D crops from hitting the market. He has the authority to direct USDA and EPA to take a closer look at on-the-ground impacts and better protect community health and farmer livelihoods.

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Comments

NaVeraFarms's picture
NaVeraFarms /

Amazing. Weed control, soil manipulation, planting, irrigation and harvesting was all done by hand for decades before humans became lazy and family farms were sold for corporate money for a so called better life of ego driven "wants" rather than "needs."  Technology took a front seat to spirituality and TV drove the future of illusion and products that replaced real food for consumption.
Poison is poison and when the health of the people and all living entities including the good insects like Bees are destroyed then indeed the world of so called farming becomes an illusion led by profit and the need for population control from said toxins.
Dow and Monsanto are indeed the leaders in population control while wearing a mask of marketing defining themselves as the solution to feeding the world.
Soy holds let alone GMO Soy holds no benefit nor any true value which again is an illusion created by a substitute need for filling the bellies of human and animal life.   GMO Corn is not real corn and also serves as product for consumption but is not food nor holds any nutritional value.
GMO and Sprayed soil becomes inactive dirt with no beneficial enzymes or microbes to feed any real crop hence the reason GMO product still grows without the need for fertile soil.
Airborne sprays and insecticides do indeed travel and create the demise of birds, butterflies, Bees and of course human and animal life. 
Our Farm, our Foundation and all of our businesses will continue to educate and raise awareness to those who value life and the return to who we once were led by governmental agencies who were put in place by the tax payers to protect, honor and choose the highest regard for its people and all life.   May God forgive us and those who continue to hold no value for self nor respect, integrity or love for any other living thing.

dungdung's picture
dungdung /

That is nice. Thanks for your explanation

Linda Wells is PAN's Associate Director of Organizing. Follow @LindaatPAN