Chemical companies are quietly asking the government to approve a dangerous new genetically engineered
crop designed to withstand heavy spraying of an old chemical used in warfare decades ago. Chemical
corporations are resurrecting these dangerous compounds because newer pesticides used in high amounts are
no longer working—weeds are actually outsmarting the chemical compounds and evolving into resistant, hard-to-kill super weeds.
As if the disaster of RoundUp resistant super weeds sweeping our farmland weren’t enough, Monsanto is now preparing to launch an even greater disaster: a new soybean engineered to be resistant to the older, more toxic weedkiller, dicamba. The seed — which Monsanto plans to market in 2014 if approved — will also come stacked with the company’s RoundUp Ready gene, and is designed to be used with Monsanto’s proprietary herbicide “premix” of dicamba and glyphosate.
More dicamba-tolerant crops (corn, cotton, canola) are all waiting in the wings. If this new generation of GE crops is approved, then dicamba use will surge, just as it did with RoundUp. And we all know how well that didn’t work out. To the giant pesticide company, this chemical arms race is all part of the plan.
If you’re thinking that pouring more chemicals onto already devastated farmland sounds a bit like pouring gasoline on a fire, I’d have to agree with you. So do some hefty farm businesses, as it turns out.
If this GMO crop is released, many weed scientists and pesticide experts say it’s only a matter of time, probably a few years, until weeds become resistant to 2,4-D, too. “This is nothing more than a Band-Aid solution to a serious problem, and will only give rise to more superweeds, more herbicide pollution in our environment, more herbicide poisoning, while likely leading to the need for even more toxic herbicides a couple of years down the line,” says Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “This foolish circle has to end.”
FARM BUSINESS REJECTS MONSANTO’S ANSWER
The Big 6 pesticide companies’ pipeline of new herbicide-tolerant crops poses a serious risk to farmers’ livelihood and rural economies. Weedkillers like dicamba and 2,4-D drift far and can easily destroy other farmers’ crops of tomatoes, grapes, beans, cotton, non-GE soy — just about any broadleaf plant. That’s why farmers and some large companies are getting worried. As Steve Smith, Director of Agriculture for Red Gold, the largest canned tomato processor in the United States, testified before Congress in 2010:
I am convinced that in all of my years serving the agriculture industry, the widespread use of
[poses] the single most serious threat to the future of the specialty crop industry in the Midwest.
Smith warns of the damaging surge in dicamba use that would accompany introduction of dicamba-tolerant GE crops — both over more acreage and throughout the season.
He predicts widespread crop damage, harm to non-target plants that would result from spray and volatilization drift, and financial loss — not only to growers but also to processing companies like his that would suffer major supply disruption, even conflicts erupting between neighbors eroding the social fabric of rural community life. His testimony concluded:
The introduction of dicamba tolerant soybeans is a classic case of short-sighted enthusiasm over a new technology, blinding us to the reality that is sure to come. Increased dicamba usage, made possible through the introduction of dicamba tolerant soybeans, is poor public policy and should not be allowed.
WE CAN CHOOSE TO GET OFF THE PESTICIDE TREADMILL
The widespread use of dicamba is incompatible with Midwest agriculture. — Steve Smith, Director of Agriculture, Indiana-based tomato processing company Red Gold.
We’ve just witnessed an incredible victory with the removal of the infamous cancer-causing pesticide methyl iodide from the entire U.S. marketplace. So we know that we can win. And we know that the threat that pesticides pose to farm sustainability, our water and air quality, our communities’ and our children’s health can be blocked. But we have to be dedicated and smart.Right now, companies like Monsanto, BASF and Dow are planning to drive up their pesticide sales by introducing a new generation of herbicide-tolerant crops, designed to be used with their proprietary weedkillers. The test case before us —the first of this new generation up for review and currently awaiting USDA approval — is Dow’s 2,4-D GE corn (“a very bad idea”). The most effective thing we can do to protect farmers and consumers from dicamba-tolerant crops is to shut down the pipeline of herbicide-tolerant crops — beginning with 2,4-D-resistant corn.
There are many, many reasons that Dow’s new strain of corn that’s genetically engineered to withstand high doses of the herbicide 2,4-D is a terrible idea. Since 2,4-D has been around for so long, there’s plenty of evidence about how it can harm human health. Children, as usual, are most at risk, and USDA needs to know that ramping up use of 2,4-D in fields across the country is simply not acceptable.Just as Monsanto’s RoundUp-ready corn increased the use of the herbicide RoundUp (aka glyphosate) by orders of magnitude, Dow’s “2,4-D-ready” corn could mean millions of additional pounds of pesticide use. 2,4-D is already one of the most widely used pesticides in the country, with an estimated 20 million pounds — give or take a million or so — applied every year.
CHILDREN ARE ALREADY EXPOSED
In 2003 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that children around the country aged 6-11 years had significantly higher levels of 2,4-D in their bodies than both adults (20–59 years) and youth (12–19 years), a pattern repeated in CDC’s 2009 update.
An increase in 2,4-D use would certainly increase that body burden.
Exposure to 2,4-D itself and to myriad “inert” ingredients contained in 2,4-D products have been linked to many health harms. The common weedkiller is listed in California as a reproductive and developmental toxicanat, defined as a chemical that interferes with fetal or child development or reduces fertility. Researchers have also found a link between 2,4-D exposure and birth defects of the heart and circulatory/respiratory systems. The association is especially strong among infants conceived between April and June — the time of greatest herbicide application in many parts of the country.
Many studies also link 2,4-D with developmental neurotoxicity, findings that EPA has repeatedly failed to adequately consider in its regulation of the herbicide.
2,4-D HAS BEEN LINKED TO CANCER FOR YEARS
For more than two decades chlorophenoxy herbicides (including 2,4-D) have been classified as possible human carcinogens.
In recent years, more data have emerged linking 2,4-D with non – Hodgkins lymphoma and other cancers. A 2000 study in the Midwest wheat growing region, where 2,4-D use is high, showed increased mortality for cancer of the brain and leukemia in both boys and girls, as well as increased rates of many different cancers linked with increasing wheat acreage. A more recent study of California farm workers showed an increase in gastric cancer associated with use of 2,4-D.
USDA also announced its approval of a new type of corn genetically engineered to withstand droughts. Interestingly, data from the Rodale Institute shows that corn grown in organically managed soil is drought tolerant without the help of toxic chemicals. USDA made its decision to approve this “drought-tolerant” corn despite the fact that 45,000 people petitioned against it. “President Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack just sent a clear message to the American public that they do not care about our concerns with genetically engineered food and their questionable safety, adverse environmental impacts, and detrimental effects on farmers, especially organic farmers,” says Kastel.
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