Amidst the election turmoil of the last few weeks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly approved more harmful pesticide products for use with genetically engineered (GE) seeds.
EPA put Dow's "Enlist Duo" cocktail of glyphosate and 2,4-D back on the market, after pulling it off just a year ago due to widespread concern. The agency also gave a green light to Monsanto's new formulation of dicamba, intended for use with the corporation's latest line of GE soy and cotton crops. Both approvals mean a dramatic increase in the use of health-harming herbicides on farmland across the country.
Enlist Duo coming to a field near you
Dow marketed the Enlist Duo formulation as a solution to tackle glyphosate-resistant “superweeds” that have emerged in the wake of widespread use of Monsanto's RoundUp.
Both key ingredients in this herbicide concoction are known to drift from the fields where they're applied to neighboring homes and farms. 2,4-D has been linked to birth defects and cancer, and is particulalry damaging to non-target plants. And glyphosate is under increasing scrutiny since UN scientists determined it to be a "probable carcinogen" last year.
In the face of huge public opposition, EPA originally approved Enlist Duo for use in a limited number of states in 2014. The agency withdrew its approval a year later, under pressure from a legal petition filed by PAN and our partners at Center for Food Safety that challenged the agency's oversight of synergistic effects between the glyphosate and 2,4-D.
But on November 1, EPA re-approved and expanded the use of Enlist Duo. It is now authorized for use with Dow's GE corn, soy and cotton in 34 states — up from 15 states — where the product was previously approved only for corn and soy.
In the words of Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PAN senior scientist:
Once again, EPA has failed to protect the health, well-being and livelihood of America’s farmers and rural communities. The agency’s decision dramatically increases the risk of pesticide drift causing severe crop losses and harms to human health."
Monsanto's "new" dicamba
Just a week after re-approving Enlist Duo, EPA pushed another new formulation of an old herbicide onto the market: dicamba.
Dicamba is notorious for drifting onto neighboring fields and damaging crops, so Monsanto has been pushing for a "new formulation" that is theoretically less prone to drift. This past summer, some conventional farmers — desperate to fight superweeds — bought Monsanto’s new dicamba-resistant seeds (approved last year) and then illegally sprayed an old version of dicamba. The result? Neighboring farms that hadn’t planted dicamba-resistant seeds experienced extensive damage to soybeans, as well as other non-target crops like peaches, tomatoes, rice, cotton and alfalfa.
Monsanto claims its new version of dicamba is less drift-prone, although farmers, scientists and environmentalists alike are deeply concerned about the lack of scientific testing surrounding this assertion. Aside from this, the older formulation will still be cheaper. To avoid potential crop damage, many farmers will be forced to buy dicamba-resistant seeds just to protect themselves from neighboring drift.
For PAN, Marcia Ishii-Eiteman shares her thoughts, particularly her concern for farmers:
The biotech industry’s herbicide-promoting GE crops have brought farmers higher input costs, greater exposure to hazardous pesticides, an epidemic of superweeds — and thousands of acres of drift-damaged crops. Yet once again, EPA appears more willing to shore up Monsanto’s profits than defend the public interest.
President Obama and his EPA should leave a lasting legacy for America’s farmers and agricultural communities by taking these harmful products off the shelf and providing meaningful solutions in sustainable and ecological pest management, rather than yet another acceleration of the pesticide treadmill.”
The incoming President is showing signs that he will put even more control of our public agencies in the hands of corporations. But we at Pesticide Action Network remain steadfast in our commitement to protect the health and well-being of farmers, workers and rural communities most directly impacted by harmful pesticides.