Doctors, Scientists Urge Obama Administration to Reject Potent Herbicide Mix

Washington, D.C. – Thirty-five prominent doctors, scientists and researchers have signed a letter urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to deny approval of a new double herbicide mix of toxic 2,4-D and glyphosate, which would be marketed as “Enlist DuoTM” weed killer.

If approved, Enlist Duo would be used on millions of acres of farm fields in combination with a new strain of genetically engineered corn and soybeans – putting human health and the environment at risk.

Signers of the letter, which was delivered today to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, include Dr. Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Chensheng (Alex) Lu of Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. Raymond Richard Neutra, a retired division chief of the California Department of Public Health.

“Decades of research have continuously demonstrated the risks of using 2,4-D, a notoriously toxic herbicide,” the signatories wrote. “Allowing large-scale 2,4-D spraying in combination with 2,4-D-tolerant genetically engineered crops would worsen the problem. We urge the EPA to do the right thing and deny the approval of the new mixtures of 2,4-D and glyphosate in order to protect human and environmental health.”

EPA has proposed to permit Dow AgroSciences, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company, to sell Enlist Duo, a formulation that contains 2,4-D and glyphosate. Glyphosate is the harmful herbicide in RoundUp, the infamous weed killer developed by chemical giant Monsanto.

Exposure to 2,4-D has been linked thyroid, immune system and reproductive problems, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Parkinson’s disease. Americans are already exposed to 2,4-D through herbicides applied to lawns, turf grass and other non-agricultural fields.

“If EPA approves Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered corn and soy, it would result in the largest expansion of a known toxic herbicide use in more than three decades,” said Mary Ellen Kustin, a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Working Group, which launched a campaign earlier this month to expose the major flaws in EPA’s risk assessment of the new herbicide combination. “We need to do everything we can to make sure the agency keeps this harmful weed killer away from our food and out of our environment.”

The signed letter calls out the EPA for disregarding toxicity tests in its risk assessment of Enlist Duo, even though the agency acknowledged “there could be additional toxicological effects (synergistic or additive) because of the presence of two herbicides.” The agency also failed to apply a key safety factor required by federal law when a chemical poses potential risks specific to young children. In particular, EPA’s assessment omitted the possibility of inhaling 2,4-D – even though that’s one of the primary routes of exposure. Risks would be much higher for children in residential communities, schools and daycare centers near sprayed fields.

This month, more than 77,000 people from across the country signed an EWG petition opposing the approval of the new herbicide combination. EWG plans to submit its petition to EPA.

The agency is accepting comments from the public about Dow's application through June 30.

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