EWG Blasts Government Approval of 2,4-D-Tolerant Corn, Soybeans

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For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to approve new varieties of genetically engineered corn and soybean seeds "brings us one step closer to widespread use of a new toxic weed killer that would threaten children’s health and the environment," EWG said in a statement.

“We are truly disappointed in the USDA for putting the interests of chemical companies before the health of our children and the environment,” said Mary Ellen Kustin, a senior policy analyst with EWG. “Instead of putting the brakes on the chemical treadmill, the government is on the fast track to approve more toxic weed killers.” 

The announcement, posted yesterday on the website of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said that the decision will “become effective upon publication in the Federal Register.”

USDA’s decision allows chemical manufacturer Dow AgroSciences to sell 2,4-D- and glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybean seeds in tandem with its new weed killer, known as Enlist Duo.

In a separate regulatory proceeding, Dow is awaiting approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to sell Enlist Duo, a toxic combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate.

The company wants to market its new product to farmers beset by hardy weeds that have evolved to tolerate glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, Monsanto’s popular weed killer. In a press release issued earlier this year, Dow claimed that Enlist Duo would “control and help prevent further development of herbicide-resistant weeds.”

EWG opposes the approval of this product because human exposure to 2,4-D has been linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease and thyroid problems. EWG also contends that the new herbicide could spur the evolution of new “superweeds” resistant to both 2,4-D and glyphosate.

If EPA approves Enlist Duo, nationwide use of 2,4-D could more than triple by 2020, according to USDA’s estimates, exposing communities near sprayed crop fields to eight times more of the chemical than today.

Last month, EWG released an analysis showing that more than 480 elementary schools nationwide are within 200 feet of corn and soybean fields that could be blanketed by the new weed killer. 

“Tens of thousands of young children would be exposed to more intense concentrations of a toxic defoliant that is linked to cancer than is the case today,” added Kustin. “The EPA must go back and do a thorough assessment of the serious risks associated with 2,4-D. Once that’s done, it will be hard not to conclude that approving Enlist Duo is not the right decision for our children and the environment.”