A coalition of more than 2,000 U.S. farmers and food companies said Wednesday it is taking legal action to force government regulators to analyze potential problems with proposed biotech crops and the weed-killing chemicals to be sprayed over them.
The two chemicals are set to be released in response to the growing problem of pesticide- and herbicide-resistant “superweeds,” which are increasingly plaguing conventional crop fields. But unlike existing chemical treatments, 2,4-D and dicamba are extremely toxic, and threaten to destroy nearby trees, plants, and crops, which will have a devastating impact on the environment as a whole.
Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical, and Monsanto Co. are among several global chemical and seed companies racing to roll out combinations of genetically altered crops and new herbicides designed to work with the crops as a way to counter rapidly spreading herbicide-resistant weeds that are choking millions of acres of U.S. farmland.
Dow and Monsanto say the new chemical combinations and new crops that tolerate those chemicals are badly needed by corn, soybean and cotton farmers as weeds increasingly resist treatments of the most commonly used herbicide – glyphosate-based Roundup.
“2,4-D and dicamba are known to drift and volatilize, causing damage to plants over 10 miles away from the point of application,” says the Save Our Crops Coalition. “Thus, the Save Our Crops Coalition has petitioned APHIS (USDA) and EPA to prepare an environmental impact statement to consider the cumulative impacts of the deregulation of all synthetic auxin herbicide tolerant crops.”
Over the last four years, more than $1 million in damages have been filed in lawsuits and insurance claims by Midwestern growers who have suffered crop losses due to 2,4-D and dicamba that has drifted onto their farms, Smith said. Those losses would increase with the new herbicide-tolerant crops because farmers would then be spraying more of the herbicides and later in the growing season, the coalition says.
In their legal petitions, the group is asking the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct an environmental impact study on the ramifications of a release of a new 2,4-D tolerant corn that is to be accompanied by Dow’s new herbicide mix containing both 2,4-D and glyphosate. It wants a similar environmental impact statement on the dicamba and glyphosate herbicide tolerant crops being developed by Monsanto.
When 2,4-D is sprayed, it very easily spreads and comes into contact with other plants and animal life. Even at very low levels, 2,4-D can cause “extensive yield damage to non-target crops,” according to Save Our Crops, not to mention the profuse health problems it causes to animals and humans upon exposure or consumption.
And dicamba, Monsanto’s version of 2,4-D, is not that much different. According to research compiled by scientists from Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and the University of California at Davis, dicamba is a pervasive plant killer that can cause birth defects and other serious problems in humans.
Neither 2,4-D nor dicamba has ever been properly safety tested, or ever undergone a comprehensive environmental impact assessment. And yet the USDA and the EPA are poised to allow the unregulated use of these chemicals in conventional agriculture, much in the same way that the USDA decided to deregulate GM alfalfa back in early 2011. There is still time to leave a comment of opposition to 2,4-D and dicamba in the Federal Register. The deadline for submission is April, 27, 2012: http://saveourcrops.org