Washington, D.C.—Yesterday the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the commercial sale of genetically engineered corn and soybean seeds that can withstand application of the herbicides 2,4-D and Roundup. The draft Environmental Impact Statement released by the USDA received nearly 400,000 comments from farmers, farmworkers, health professionals and members of the public in March, and the EPA’s analysis of Dow’ “Enlist” 2,4-D formulation in July triggered additional petition signatures from over 500,000 people urging the agencies not to approve these new GMO crops.
“Yesterday the USDA ignored public opposition and its responsibility to protect public health and agriculture,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “The approval of 2,4-D ready crops is one of the most negligent decisions that the USDA has made in the nearly twenty years since genetically engineered crops have been on the market. After watching Roundup-ready crops quickly lose their utility by giving rise to Roundup-resistant superweeds, it is baffling that the USDA could not see that this approval of a new herbicide-tolerant crop system would be a futile, short-lived attempt at weed control which will only make things worse in a matter of years.”
The USDA, EPA and FDA make up the team of regulatory agencies that oversee the safety of genetically engineered crops and ultimately, food. The regulatory process is outdated and biotechnology companies are getting their genetically engineered varieties approved faster than ever before. Because the USDA’s authority lies with plants, and EPA’s only covers chemicals, a thorough examination of the overlap between genetically engineered crops and the associated chemical use has been neglected by both agencies.
Despite the USDA’s prediction that 2,4-D use will increase 200 to 600 percent once Dow’s Enlist crops are approved, and the EPA’s acknowledgement that there are ‘information gaps,’ ‘key uncertainties’ and ‘insufficient information’ in the analysis of the impacts of 2,4-D on nontarget organisms, the USDA is forging ahead with this next generation of genetically engineered crops. Because 2,4-D is prone to drifting away from the field where it is applied, increased use of the herbicide will put grapes, tomatoes and all other specialty crops that are not engineered to withstand exposure to 2,4-D at risk. 2,4-D, infamous as a component of Agent Orange, the defoliant used during the Vietnam War, also has serious human health risks including non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
“The USDA and EPA’s evaluation of these 2,4-D tolerant crops missed the mark by ignoring the cumulative risks associated with increased 2,4-D and Roundup applications, the potentially devastating impacts on biodiversity and the known risks to human health from 2,4-D,” said Hauter. “The laws being used to regulate these new crops were written long before this technology had been developed and this latest approval simply speeds up the chemical treadmill that industrialized agriculture depends on.”
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch: 202-683-4905, [email protected]