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.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and proposed approval for new GMO corn and soybean varieties genetically engineered to be resistant to the toxic herbicide 2,4-D.
The approval comes despite USDA's acknowledgment that Dow's crops will trigger a three- to seven-fold increase in agricultural use of 2,4-D, foster 2,4-D resistance in weeds, and inhibit farmers' use of non-chemical weed control methods.
Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of Center for Food Safety (CFS), described the announcement as "an outrageous abdication of USDA's responsibility to protect our health and our food supply.
"The Obama Administration has ignored the interests and demands of millions of Americans, Members of Congress, and scientists, farmers and health professionals."
A 30-day public comment period is now under way before USDA is expected to grant final approval of the controversial new crops. USDA also released a draft Environmental Impact Statement and proposed approval for soybean and cotton varieties resistant to Monsanto's dicamba, with a 45-day comment period.
The herbicide treadmill
Dow touts its 'Enlist' corn and soybeans as a fix to the epidemic of Roundup-resistant weeds generated by Monsanto's genetically engineered, Roundup Ready crops, which have increased herbicide use by 527 million pounds between 1996 and 2011.
But many farmers and plant scientists instead favor a host of viable agroecological techniques to control weeds - such as crop rotations and cover crops - that involve little or no reliance on herbicides.
George Naylor, CFS Board Member and Iowa corn and soybean farmer,described weed resistance as "a major problem for farmers" that needs a solution, but added:
"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."
'Stacked' herbicide resistance
The Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a concurrent review of Enlist Duo, Dow's proprietary mix of 2,4-D and glyphosate, for use on Dow's corn and soybeans.
If given final approval, these GE crops will be sold with additional resistance to other herbicides, including glyphosate, and CFS describes them as "among the first wave of the biotechnology industry's efforts to increase the pesticide intensity of US agriculture."
Bill Freese, CFS's Science Policy Analyst, commented: "USDA's decision represents a huge setback for farmers and sustainable agriculture. Independent scientists have linked 2,4-D to cancer, Parkinson's disease and other maladies.
"Introduction of 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans will dramatically increase use of this toxic herbicide, leading to more disease, environmental harm, and increasingly intractable weeds for farmers."
One last chance
Kimbrell denounced the "decades of false promises from the pesticide industry", adding that "the end result of their grand experiment with biotechnology is more toxic pesticides ...
"USDA seems determined to allow this chemical assault on our farmland to take place. Americans have one last chance to speak to the agency and the Obama Administration and demand a halt to 2,4-D crops before it's too late."
Sign the petition: to USDA and President Obama to stop Dow Chemical's 'Agent Orange' crops.