2,4-D Herbicide & GMO Crops

Take action to keep 2,4-D from tripling

Sunday, June 22, 2014

2,4-D Herbicide & GMO Crops

Take action to keep 2,4-D from tripling

A fight is brewing over Dow’s Enlist Duo, an extraordinarily potent weed-killer designed to kill the new generation of so-called “superweeds” that have adapted to withstand blasts of Monsanto’s popular weed-killer RoundUp.   

Enlist Duo is composed of two harsh pesticides: 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), a herbicide invented in 1946 and long known to be toxic to people and the environment, and glyphosate, the main ingredient in RoundUp.

Dow AgroSciences (a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co.) received approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow the mass distribution of its latest products: genetically engineered (GMO) corn and soy varieties created to resist 2,4-D as well as glyphosate.

Not long after the USDA approved the seeds, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of Enlist Duo across America’s heartland.

Now Dow intends to market Enlist Duo to farmers so they can escalate their attacks on superweeds spurred by widespread RoundUp use.

According to the USDA, planting 2,4-D-resistant GMO crops nationwide would more than triple the spraying of 2,4-D by 2020. The department also indicated that communities near 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybean fields would be exposed to eight times more 2,4-D than is now the case, and even greater amounts, according to independent estimates. Americans’ exposure to this toxic herbicide would soar.

Click here to read EWG’s official comments to the EPA outlining how the agency’s risk assessment of Enlist Duo is too flawed to proceed. 

Click on the links below to read more about the hazards of 2,4-D herbicide and Dow’s 2,4-D-resistant crops to human and environmental health. 

 

Rise of Superweeds

Rise of Superweeds

Enlist Duo promises to kill herbicide-resistant weeds, often called superweeds, which developed after farmers across the nation adopted Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide containing glyphosate to use in conjunction with “RoundUp Ready” crops starting in the late 1990s. Enlist herbicide, a combination of the potent chemicals 2,4-D and glyphosate, is designed to be used in conjunction with 2,4-D and glyphosate-resistant corn and soybeans. 2,4-D may kill many weeds that can survive blasts of RoundUp in the short term, but deploying it would perpetuate the superweed problem. Weeds would soon adapt to survive 2,4-D in addition to glyphosate.

Learn more.

 

 

Human Health and 2,4-D

Human Health and 2,4-D

Researchers have linked 2,4-D to hypothyroidism, suppressed immune function, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and other serious disorders.

The EPA has approved Dow’s Enlist Duo for use in 15 states, and the USDA concluded that the use of 2,4-D is likely to triple and could increase as much as seven-fold by the end of the decade – dramatically intensifying Americans’ risk of exposure to this toxic chemical.

Learn more.

 

 

Farming and 2,4-D

Farming and 2,4-D

America’s farm families and communities would be put at heightened risk by increased exposure to 2,4-D. The USDA and Dow AgroSciences estimate that 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans could cover up to 75 million acres -- nearly half of the total corn and soybean acreage in the U.S. today -- within five years.  If these new varieties replace all glyphosate-resistant corn and soybeans where Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide is used today, up to 154 million acres of American farmland would be sprayed with 2,4-D.

Farmworkers could inhale 2,4-D and get it on their skin while spraying it. The chemical could drift from sprayed fields into nearby neighborhoods. People would track it into their homes. The damage can reach beyond the farmers who live close to sprayed areas. In fact, once it is sprayed, 2,4-D can transform into a gas and float to both nearby and distant fields.

Learn more.

 

 

Health and 2,4-D - Risks to Children

Health and 2,4-D - Risks to Children

The chemical 2,4-D has been linked to a number of health hazards, including disruption of hormones and reproductive functions, elevated risk of cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Learn more.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Pets, wildlife and 2,4-D

Pets, wildlife and 2,4-D

Dow’s Enlist Duo threatens household pets and other animals. Pets, farm animals and wild animals don’t know when and where a weed killer has been applied. They wander into 2,4-D-sprayed corn and soybean fields, roll on 2,4-D-treated lawns, eat 2,4-D on foliage and drink water contaminated with 2,4-D. For these reasons, they are often exposed to more intense concentrations of herbicides and insecticides than people.

Learn more.

 

Rise of Superweeds

Infographic explaining super weeds

Super Weeds Explained

1. Got a Weed Problem?

Farmers who kill weeds on their fields with toxic herbicides began to kick it up a notch in 1996 when the first genetically engineered (GE) crops marketed to withstand herbicides started being planted in the U.S. The promise was that these GE crops would reduce pesticide use. Unfortunately, they've done the exact opposite by creating superweeds. Here's how:

 

2. Applying the Roundup

At first, blanket spraying of the weed killer glyphosate cleared out the weeds without affecting Monsanto's "RoundUp ® Ready" crops that had been genetically engineered to withstand the glyphosate.

 

3. Weeds Aquire Resistance

But over time, the weeds that were able to withstand glyphosate survived and spread to more and more fields. And the RoundUp® was unable to kill the "superweeds" it had created.

 

4. Perpetuating the Problem

Instead of delivering on the promises of lower herbicide use and lessened environmental pollution, the glyphosate-tolerant crops caused increased herbicide use.

Now, rather than taking a step back and re-evaluating the GE crop strategy in the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are rushing to approve new GE crops in combination with Dow AgroSciences's 2,4-D with glyphosate Enlist® Duo herbicide, which would lead to much greater use of 2,4-D and greater environmental pollution.

 

References:

Benbrook C. 2012. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years. Environmental Sciences Europe 24:24.

Owen MD. Weed species shifts in glyphosate-resistant crops. Pest Manag Sci. 64(4): 377-87.

Owen MD, Young BG, Shaw DR, Wilson RG, Jordan DL, Dixon PM, Weller SC. 2011. Benchmark study on glyphosate-resistant crop systems in the United States. Part 2: Perspectives. Pest Manag Sci. 67(7): 747-57.

 

Human Health and 2,4-D

Human exposure to 2,4-D.  Human epidemiological studies have linked 2,4-D exposure with a wide range of health concerns.

 

References:

de la Rosa P, Barnett J, Schafer R. 2003. Loss of pre-B and IgM(+) B cells in the bone marrow after exposure to a mixture of herbicides. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 66(24): 2299-313.

de la Rosa P, Barnett JB, Schafer R. 2005. Characterization of thymic atrophy and the mechanism of thymocyte depletion after in vivo exposure to a mixture of herbicides. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 68(2): 81-98.

Faustini A, Settimi L, Pacifici R, Fano V, Zuccaro P, Forastiere F. 1996. Immunological changes among farmers exposed to phenoxy herbicides: preliminary observations. Occup Environ Med. 53(9): 583-5.

Goldner WS, Sandler DP, Yu F, Shostrom V, Hoppin JA, Kamel F, LeVan TD. 2013. Hypothyroidism and pesticide use among male private pesticide applicators in the agricultural health study. J Occup Environ Med. 55(10): 1171-8.

Miligi L, Costantini AS, Veraldi A, Benvenuti A; WILL, Vineis P. Cancer and pesticides: an overview and some results of the Italian multicenter case-control study on hematolymphopoietic malignancies. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1076:366-77, 2006.

Schinasi L, Leon M; 2014. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Occupational Exposure to Agricultural Pesticide Chemical Groups and Active Ingredients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 11(4): 4449-4527.

Tanner C, Ross G, Jewell S, Hauser R, Jankovic J, Factor S, Bressman S, Deligtisch A, Marras C, Lyons K, Bhudhikanok G, Roucoux D, Meng C, Abbot R, Langston W. 2009. Occupation and Risk of Parkinsonism. Arch. Neurol. Sep;66(9):1106-13. 

 

Farming and 2,4-D

America’s farm families and communities would be put at heightened risk by increased exposure to 2,4-D. Farmers would inhale it and get it on their skins while spraying it. The chemical could drift from sprayed fields into nearby neighborhoods. People would track it into their homes. The damage can reach beyond the farmers who live close to sprayed areas. In fact, once it is sprayed, 2,4-D can transform into a gas and float to both nearby and distant fields.

Pesticide drift can have dire consequences for crop yields. 2,4-D could damage or completely destroy acres of potential harvests. In California in 2012, drifting 2,4-D wiped out nearly 15,000 acres of cotton and a valuable pomegranate orchard. Even at the current levels of use, 2,4-D is responsible for more episodes of drift-related crop injury than any other herbicide.

Farmers whose fields are plagued with unwanted pesticides and herbicides that have drifted from other farmers’ fields may end up forfeiting all or part of their harvest for a season.  Organic farmers could lose not only their harvests but also their organic certifications, because organic farming prohibits the use of almost all chemical pesticides. An heirloom tomato farmer in Mississippi experienced such a loss earlier this year. USDA organic certification rules require that land be free of banned pesticides and other chemicals for three years. An organic farmer’s livelihood can be swept away by a single gust of wind.

2,4-D Around the world.  If you laid 1 gallon jugs end-to-end of all the 2,4-D used in US agriculture each year, it would stretch 4,700 miles (nearly from Washington, DC to Honolulu, HI.  But if the EPA approves Dow's new 2,4-D weed killer, the just would wrap around the world

 

Risks to Children from 2,4-D

The chemical 2,4-D has been linked to a number of health hazards, including disruption of hormones and reproductive functions, elevated risk of cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

If approved, large-scale 2,4-D spraying on 2,4-D-resistant genetically engineered crops could have severe consequences for human health. Communities nearest GE and conventional agricultural fields, mostly in the Midwest, will bear the brunt of the hazards of 2,4-D.  

Young children in homes, day care centers and schools would face the greatest health risks. A 2007 University of Minnesota study of farm families found that 2,4-D levels in the bodies of children between the ages of four and 12 years were about three times those of children 12 or older.  

Studies have detected that male farmers who worked with 2,4-D experienced disruption of the reproductive and the thyroid function, compared to men not exposed to this chemical. Research has also demonstrated that farmers exposed to 2,4-D had suppressed immune systems, which could weaken their defenses against various infections. A comprehensive review published earlier this year by researchers with the International Agency for Research on Cancer has shown that people exposed to 2,4-D and other agricultural pesticides are more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A study published in 2009 made a link between 2,4-D and Parkinson’s disease.

2,4-D hurts me.  Picture of baby.

 

Pets, wildlife and 2,4-D

2,4-D Hurts me - picture of pet dog

2,4-D Hurts me - picture of baby duck
2,4-D hurts me - picture of butterfly

Dow’s Enlist Duo threatens household pets and other animals. Pets, farm animals and wild animals don’t know when and where a weed killer has been applied.  They wander into 2,4-D-sprayed corn and soybean fields, roll on 2,4-D-treated lawns, eat 2,4-D on foliage and drink water contaminated with 2,4-D.  For these reasons, they are often exposed to more intense concentrations of herbicides and insecticides than people.

A 2004 study by Purdue University scientists showed that Scottish terriers exposed to lawns treated with herbicides such as 2,4-D had greater risk of bladder cancer than other terriers. A 1991 National Cancer Institute study concluded that dogs exposed to just four lawn treatments a year significantly increased their risk of malignant lymphoma. Domestic animals accidentally exposed to large quantities of 2,4-D can suffer lethargy, weakness, vomiting and convulsions. Hunting dogs near farmland are already at risk of exposure to 2,4-D and other pesticides from agricultural runoff onto wetlands where duck and other wildlife live. Tripling 2,4-D applications on crops would put these animals in even more danger.

Wild animals do not have owners to look out for their safety.  The EPA says that 53 endangered species, including four mammals and five birds, would be potentially at risk from increased 2,4-D use in the Midwest, where corn and soybean farms abound. The EPA said the risk could be managed by confining 2,4-D to fields, but it did not explain how wildlife and plants would be kept out of pesticide-contaminated fields. 

Honeybees are particularly vulnerable to pesticides. Bee colonies are collapsing in alarming numbers throughout the world.   They are at heightened risk from 2,4-D. EWG’s analysis of documents disclosed by the EPA found that even in short-term tests for 2,4-D exposure, honeybees showed a variety of toxicity symptoms, including slow response to stimuli, reduced coordination, loss of equilibrium, hyper-excitability, lethargy, immobility and death.

Drift of 2,4-D from sprayed fields would destroy flowering plants essential to pollinator colonies, causing significant economic harm. Other important insect species such as monarch butterflies are known to suffer from pesticide toxicity.

The bottom line: 2,4-D is harmful to pets and wildlife. EPA should not approve  Dow’s Enlist® Duo for large-scale spraying on tens of millions of acres of American farmland.