2,4-D crops rubberstamped

(Bad news for Iowa farmers who grow vegetables and fruits (including vineyards), or who raise livestock on chemical-free pastures. Bleeding Heartland user black desert nomad covered some of the potential risks here. Even for conventional corn and beans farmers, the approach rubber-stamped by the EPA and USDA is likely to exacerbate the "superweed" problem over time. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

It's official. EPA and USDA have both evaluated Dow Chemical's new  line of 2,4-D-resistant seeds, Enlist — and have approved both the seeds  and the accompanying pesticide formulation for market.

This is a turning point, not just for grain production but for food  production in the U.S. and internationally. The introduction of Enlist  corn and soybeans, and the widespread adoption of this new seed line,  will have pervasive impacts on farmer livelihoods, public health and  control of our food system.

 

This is a decision that our regulators should not have taken lightly.  And yet, it seems they did. Both USDA and EPA set up an intentionally  narrow scope for evaluating the potential harms posed by 2,4-D resistant  crops — one that ignored the biggest problems and held up irrelevant  factors as evidence of safety.

As small farmers brace for the impact of pesticide drift that will  hit with the introduction of Enlist crops, it is time for us to look  forward. It's time to demand a regulatory system that takes a rigorous  approach to pesticides and genetically engineered crops, one that values  small farmers as much as industrial agriculture — and public health as  much as corporate profit.

It's a set up

Dow Chemical's Enlist seeds and pesticides passed this approval process with relative ease, despite extended public outcry from farmers, health professionals and communities across the country.

Dow, and the other "Big 6"  global pesticide corporations, would have us believe that this was a  drawn-out, rigorous process that once again proves the safety and  necessity of GE crops. The reality is that the whole process was a  tricky sleight-of-hand: Enlist passed the test because the test itself  was set up to be a cake-walk.

From the beginning, opponents of 2,4-D-resistant crops have focused on three main objections:

  1. Enlist crops will mean a massive increase in the use of the toxic and  volatile chemical 2,4-D. Neighboring farms, especially those that grow  fruits and vegetables, will be put at risk for increased crop damage. Their livelihoods will be threatened, and fruit and vegetable production will become an even riskier venture for U.S. farmers.
     
  2. Rural exposure to 2,4-D will also increase to unprecedented levels. 2,4-D is linked to cancer and reproductive harm,  among other negative impacts. USDA itself predicts 2,4-D use in corn  and soybean production to increase between 500% and 1,400% over the  course of nine years.
     
  3. Dow is presenting Enlist as the answer to farmer's prayers about  "superweeds," an economic must-have that outweighs any side effects. But  the truth is that superweeds were caused by Monsanto's RoundUp Ready  seed line, the current king of pesticide-resistant crops — and there's  nothing to stop weeds from developing resistance to 2,4-D just as they  have to glyphosate, RoundUp's active ingredient. USDA needs to invest in  real solutions for weed management, not allow this false solution to exacerbate the problem.

And of these major points, how many were accounted for in the approval process run by USDA and EPA? Not a single one.

Agency hot potato

What happened? Well, to Administrators Tom Vilsack (USDA) and Gina  McCarthy (EPA), when it comes to evaluating the safety of new GE crops,  apparently the buck stops — somewhere else. Each agency accepted the  narrowest possible interpretation of its responsibilities to safeguard  our fields and families.

USDA essentially decided to only look at the damage that GE seeds  themselves would cause, ignoring the threat of pesticide drift entirely —  and passing the onus of evaluating pesticide-related issues to EPA. 

Meanwhile, EPA did a rather shoddy job of addressing the health impacts of this dramatic increase in 2,4-D use. McCarthy didn't consider  the cumulative damage that will result from repeated 2,4-D exposures,  and instead insisted that 2,4-D health impacts in general had already  been evaluated by a previous process. As for crop damage from  pesticides, well, crop damage is USDA's domain. So EPA didn't consider  that issue at all.

And neither Vilsack nor McCarthy tackled the one of the biggest  questions: Why would we put a product on the market that's going to make  superweeds even more out of control? As stated in a recent LA Times editorial:

No agency looks at the bigger policy question of whether the nation  is embarking on a potentially dangerous path toward creating ever-more  resistant weeds and spraying them and crops with larger and larger doses  of stronger herbicides. That question should be answered before the  country escalates the war out in the fields.

Hear, hear.

Do better.

It's time to intercept this game of agency hot-potato with clearly  defined directives for protecting farmers and rural families. PAN is  joining allies in demanding that USDA and EPA produce a  new, more robust process for the approval of GE crops — one that  considers the full implications of new GE products before they hit the  market, from pesticide drift to cumulative impacts.

No distractions, no loopholes. Let's take our food and farming system seriously, and make decisions based on all of the facts.

Take action »  Join PAN and partners in calling on President Obama to step in and keep  2,4-D crops from hitting the market. He has the authority to direct  USDA and EPA to take a closer look at on-the-ground impacts and better protect community health and farmer livelihoods.

By Linda Wells, associate organizing director at Pesticide Action Network of North America. Originally posted at GroundTruth

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