Congress Lauds Biotech Benefits – but at Children’s Expense?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


School children in districts represented by some members of the House subcommittee that oversees biotechnology could soon be at increased risk of being exposed to a toxic weed killer, a recent EWG analysis shows.

The House Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture is holding a hearing today (July 9) to “consider the societal benefits of biotechnology.”

Its members should also consider the health risks of blanketing fields with toxic defoliants used on genetically engineered crops – especially when those fields are right next to elementary schools – as they are in the congressional districts of subcommittee members Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.).

Dow AgroSciences (a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company) developed the herbicide Enlist Duo to kill weeds near crops that have been genetically engineered to withstand being doused by the toxic herbicide. The weed killer is a mixture of RoundUp’s infamous ingredient glyphosate with 2,4-D, and Dow has applied to the Environmental Protection Agency for approval to market it. Exposure to 2,4-D has been linked to immune and reproductive system problems, and cancer and Parkinson's disease.

The EPA acknowledges that a formulation of 2,4-D by itself can drift more than 1,000 feet from where it’s been sprayed. Dow claims that Enlist Duo has been formulated so that it would not stray more than 200 feet from a field planted with corn or soybeans engineered to tolerate the mixture of 2,4-D and glyphosate.

Of the 15 subcommittee members, 12 represent districts with at least one elementary school that’s within 1,000 feet of a corn or soybean field. And four of those members have congressional districts with elementary schools within 200 feet of fields where Enlist Duo could be used.

* denotes a district with at least one school within 200 feet of a corn or soybean field.

The EPA is in the final stages of approving Dow’s Enlist Duo. But in its risk assessment, the agency failed to apply a key safety factor required by the federal food pesticide law when a chemical presents potential risks specific to children – as 2,4-D does.

These risks are not limited to the subcommittee members’ districts. EWG identified thousands of other schools around the country that would also be located within potential toxic spray zones if the government approves Enlist Duo.

Photo: “School Crossing" by Kim Davies licensed under CC BY 2.0


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