Despite a groundswell of opposition from watchdog groups, doctors, scientists, 50 members of Congress and thousands of members of the general public, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided to move forward with approval for three new genetically modified (GM) crops designed to be sprayed with Dow AgroScience’s Enlist Duo herbicide, which contains the Agent Orange component 2,4-D and Roundup’s glyphosate chemical.
An announcement issued by the agency on August 6 recommends that three novel varieties of GM corn and soybeans designed to tolerate Enlist Duo be fully deregulated, claiming that the crops do not pose a risk to plant life or other agricultural crops. Citing the Plant Protection Act as a basis, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) says deregulation is the agency’s “preferred alternative” for addressing the growing failure of existing GM crops and their respective herbicides.
At the time of the agency’s announcement, more than 10,000 public comments had already been submitted, most of them in opposition to the crops’ approval. Concerns about how Enlist Duo GMOs will create more dependence on crop chemicals rather than less, for instance, as well as pose an increased risk to animals and humans, were among those voiced.
But the USDA has apparently ignored all these concerns, and plans to move forward in approving the 2,4-D crops despite a plethora of scientific evidence showing that this is definitely the wrong move. Rather than continue the cycle of pest and weed resistance, say experts, the agency should instead seek other, more sustainable approaches, such as permaculture and plant diversity.
“Weed resistance is a major problem for farmers and we need a solution,” said George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer and board member at the Center for Food Safety (CFS), which opposes the USDA’s position. “This decision shows that the only options USDA is willing to consider are ones that lead to increased profits for chemical companies.”
“We need to get off the pesticide treadmill, not increase the speed.”
USDA admits Enlist Duo crops will likely lead to more weed and pest resistance
Interestingly, the USDA admits in its announcement that approving 2,4-D crops will only lead to further pest and weed resistance, which of course threatens all crops, including non-GM and organic varieties. This would seem to counter the USDA’s claim that 2,4-D crops do not pose any threats to common agriculture, which they clearly do.
“The final EIS (environmental impact statement) enables APHIS to better understand the impacts of its regulatory decision including how the adoption of these products by farmers may lead to an increased risk in the development of new herbicide-tolerant weeds,” reads the announcement. “The final EIS affirms that diversified weed management practices could mitigate the impacts.”
But there is nothing “diversified” about simply increasing the strength and toxicity of existing herbicides — Enlist Duo is basically Roundup on steroids — in order to combat weed and pest resistance. Such a move only creates more problems for conventional agriculture, a fact that a cohort of experts on the subject has repeatedly tried to convey to the USDA, to no avail.
“We are outraged,” stated Marcia Ishii-Eitemann, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), another environmental group sounding the alarm about the USDA’s betrayal of American agriculture. “USDA has turned its back on America’s farmers and rural communities.”
By: Ethan A. Huff