EPA bans toxic pesticide mix on GM crops

| 26th November 2015
Photo: PAN North America.
Photo: PAN North America.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has just withdrawn its authorization for a toxic mix of two herbicides, glyphosate and 2,4-D, to be used on GM crops. The move came in response to a lawsuit claiming the initial registration was unlawful.
Just as overuse of antibiotics has left resistant strains of bacteria to thrive, repeated use of Roundup on those crops allowed glyphosate-resistant 'superweeds' to proliferate, and those weeds now infest tens of millions of acres of US farmland.

In a welcome victory for environmental campaigners, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has announced it is revoking the registration of Dow's 'Enlist Duo'.

The surprise move came in response to litigation by a coalition of conservation groups seeking to rescind the approval of the dangerous herbicide blend.

Approved by the agency just over a year ago, Enlist Duo is a toxic combination of glyphosate and 2,4-D that Dow AgroSciences created for use on the next generation of genetically engineered crops, designed to withstand being drenched with this potent herbicide cocktail.

In a filing of papers to the court, the EPA stated it is taking this action after realizing that the combination of these chemicals is likely significantly more harmful than it had initially believed.

"With this action, EPA confirms the toxic nature of this lethal cocktail of chemicals, and has stepped back from the brink", said Earthjustice Managing Attorney Paul Achitoff, which filed the suit for Center for Food Safety, on behalf of Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America.

"Glyphosate is a probable carcinogen and is wiping out the monarch butterfly, 2,4-D also causes serious human health effects, and the combination also threatens endangered wildlife.  This must not, and will not, be how we grow our food."

EPA unlawfully failed to look at impact on endangered species

The agency had approved use of Enlist Duo in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, and had intended to approve it in additional areas in the near future.

Current GMO crops varieties designed for use with the mix include 'Enlist' cotton and soybeans. A group of 35 distinguished scientists wrote to the EPA last July calling on the Agency to refuse authorization citing grave health and environment concerns.

But the coalition challenged EPA's failure to consider the impacts of Enlist Duo on threatened and endangered plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act. The Act requires that every federal agency consider the impacts of its actions on our nation's most imperiled plants and animals and seek input from the expert wildlife agencies before plunging ahead, which EPA had refused to do.

"EPA is taking a step in the right direction, but Enlist Duo shouldn't have been given the green light in the first place", said Judy Hatcher, executive director of Pesticide Action Network. "Too often, GE seeds and the herbicides designed to accompany them are rushed to market without thorough evaluation of their real-world impacts on community health and farmer livelihoods."

Missouri farmer Margot McMillen added: "I applaud the Environmental Protection Agency for this action. For many of us, the right to farm has been lost because there are so many pesticides in the environment. Many acres of crops have been killed by combinations of poisons. I hope the EPA takes this opportunity to re-examine all existing pesticide registrations."

The herbicide treadmill must stop

Dow created Enlist crops as a quick fix for the problem created by 'Roundup Ready' crops, the previous generation of genetically engineered crops designed to resist the effects of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.

Just as overuse of antibiotics has left resistant strains of bacteria to thrive, repeated use of Roundup on those crops allowed glyphosate-resistant 'superweeds' to proliferate, and those weeds now infest tens of millions of acres of US farmland.

Enlist crops allow farmers to spray both glyphosate and 2,4-D without killing their crops, and they hope the 'double hit' of herbicides will kill weeds resistant to glyphosate alone. In fact, some some weeds have already developed 2,4-D resistance, and its only a matter of time before resistance to both herbicides combines in a single weed.

As the 35 scientists wrote, "If the EPA were to approve Dow's application for 2,4-D-glyphosate herbicide to be used on 2,4-D-resistant crops, USDA estimates at least a tripling of use of 2,4-D by 2020 compared to the present amounts used annually for agriculture in the United States ...

In addition to putting human health at risk, increased 2,4-D spraying would harm the already-vulnerable ecosystems in intensely farmed regions of the United States; affect dozens of endangered species; and potentially contribute to the decline of pollinators and honeybees ... Finally, increased 2,4-D application is likely to accelerate and exacerbate the evolution of yet more 2,4-D resistant weeds."

George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety's senior attorney, said:"The decision by EPA to withdraw the illegally approved Enlist Duo crops is a huge victory for the environment and the future of our food. We will remain vigilant to ensure industry does not pressure the agency into making the same mistake in the future."

"This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for EPA taking this important action to protect people, rare plants, and animals from Enlist Duo", said Lori Ann Burd, Environmental Health director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

"As we gather with our families for the holiday feast, we can all breathe a little bit easier knowing that EPA has protected our food from being drenched with this poisonous pesticide cocktail."



Principal source: PAN North America.


Help us keep The Ecologist working for the planet

The Ecologist website is a free service, published by The Resurgence Trust, a UK-based educational charity. We work hard - with a small budget and tiny editorial team - to bring you the wide-ranging, independent journalism we know you value and enjoy, but we need your help. Please make a donation to support The Ecologist platform. Thank you!

Donate to us here