‘Agent Orange’ crops linked to damaging health and environmental effects
Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—August 1, 2014. With just weeks before a final decision is to be made, 50 members of Congress, led by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reject new GE herbicide-resistant crops and the subsequent use of extraordinarily potent weed-killer designed to kill the “superweeds” that have adapted to withstand Monsanto’s RoundUp. The herbicide, Dow’s Enlist Duo, contains 2, 4-D, the same compound used in Agent Orange that sickened many Vietnam veterans.
Members are concerned EPA and USDA have failed to properly analyze the potentially devastating health and environmental effects of allowing the use of this next generation of herbicide-resistant crops. As the letter to the EPA and the USDA states, the scientific community warned about the dangers of exposure to 2, 4-D for decades. 2, 4-D is linked to cancer, decreased sperm count liver disease and Parkinson’s disease. A recent report shows thousands of schools would be next to spray zones.
“Right now, we are witnessing agribusiness attempt to wield its powerful influence over federal regulators. They want EPA and USDA to rubberstamp another set of genetically engineered crops rather than listen to the scientific community,” DeFazio said. “We must stop this toxic treadmill because the health of our children and our environment is at stake.”
“The introduction of Roundup Ready GE crops in the 90s sparked a frightening increase in the amount of herbicides in this country. There’s no reason to think that the deregulation of 2,4-D resistant plants will be any different,” said Pingree. “The overuse of these powerful herbicides has led to superweeds that require an even stronger cocktail of toxic chemicals to control. When will it end? Today, it’s Enlist ‘Duo.’ Tomorrow, it could be ‘Triple’ or ‘Quintet.’ The federal government needs to take a hard look at ending this destructive cycle.”
The full letter to EPA and USDA is below.
July 31, 2014The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack Secretary, Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20250 The Honorable Gina McCarthy Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20460
Dear Secretary Vilsack and Administrator McCarthy,
We write to you to express our grave concerns regarding your agencies’ proposed decisions to register the Enlist Duo herbicide as well as deregulate new varieties of genetically engineered (GE) crops engineered to withstand exposure to the active ingredients glyphosate and 2,4-D. We believe that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have failed to thoroughly analyze and address the risks of Enlist Duo and the multiple adverse human health, environmental, agronomic, and socioeconomic harms that approval of 2,4-D crops will likely cause.
We currently stand at an agricultural crossroads. The first generation of “Roundup Ready” GE crops increased herbicide use by 527 million pounds between 1996 and 2011, triggering an epidemic of glyphosate-resistant “superweeds” which now infest over 61 million acres across 36 states. 2,4-D crops are among the “next-generation” of GE crops engineered to withstand applications of older, more toxic herbicides. While they are often touted as a solution to herbicide-resistant weeds, even the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recognizes in its draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that deregulating 2,4-D crops will spur the further evolution of 2,4-D resistant weeds and cause a three to seven fold increase in 2,4-D use.
The scientific community has sounded alarms about exposure to 2,4-D for decades. 2,4-D has been linked to multiple adverse health effects including cancer (especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), decreased sperm count, liver disease and Parkinson’s disease. Further, exposure has also been shown to negatively impact the hormonal, reproductive, neurological and immune systems. In addition, EPA has reported that 2,4-D is the seventh largest source of dioxins in the United States. Dioxins are extremely toxic chemicals, and their bioaccumulation in the food chain may potentially lead to dangerous levels of exposure.
We are also concerned that EPA failed to thoroughly examine all of the significant health and environmental risks of 2,4-D including that of inhalation and aggregate exposure; the risks of 2,4-D exposure to threatened and endangered species; and the risks posed by shifts in use patterns of 2,4-D as a result of the GE cropping systems. Most alarming is EPA’s failure to apply the additional safety factor of 10x, as mandated under the Food Quality Protection Act, to protect children, who are especially susceptible to harm from pesticide exposure. The 10-fold safety factor is required by law to safeguard against the potential health risks for young children and infants that would result from the widespread use of 2,4-D on GE crops.
In deciding to prepare a DEIS before proceeding, USDA APHIS recognized that its proposed approval of Dow’s 2,4-D crops will likely cause significant environmental, agronomic and socioeconomic harms.
Despite acknowledging these significant harms, in the DEIS, APHIS alleges it “must” approve the proposed crops pursuant to the Plant Protection Act (PPA), because they do not create “plant pest” harms. However in so doing APHIS has narrowly constrained its interpretation of its regulation. This overly narrow and arbitrary interpretation of APHIS’s authority is contrary to common sense and good governance principles, as well as contradicts prior acknowledgments by APHIS that its GE crop review is “considerably broader” than its review of “traditional” plant pests. Rather, APHIS has authority over broadly defined harms to agriculture and the environment that it must apply to Dow’s crops and their acknowledged adverse impacts.
Surveys of state pesticide regulators establish that 2,4-D drift is already responsible for more episodes of crop damage than any other pesticide. Vastly increased use with approval of 2,4-D crops would correspondingly increase crop damage, putting farmers of sensitive crops at grave risk. Wild plants, waterways and wildlife – including pollinator – habitat would also be threatened. 2,4-D is a quite potent plant-killer, even at levels typical of drift. EPA tests show that 2,4-D is over 400 times more toxic to emerging seedlings and 12 times more toxic to growing plants than glyphosate.
While APHIS admits that transgenic contamination because of its proposed action is possible, even likely, it refuses to analyze it. We believe that contamination will occur and it will result in significant economic harm to conventional, organic and even some growers of the first generation of glyphosate-resistant GE crops. Yet, the agency wrongly puts the entire burden on non-2,4-D crop farmers to attempt to avoid contamination.
We request that USDA and EPA fully review the facts, law, and science in this case. As the over 400,000 public comments indicate, the risks of approving 2,4-D crops are simply too great and benefits too few to jeopardize public health, the environment and the long-term sustainability of our food supply. We therefore request EPA not register Enlist Duo for use on 2,4-D crops and USDA maintain the regulated status for 2,4-D resistant crops.
Peter DeFazio, Member of Congress
Chellie Pingree, Member of Congress
John Conyers Jr., Member of Congress
Marcy Kaptur, Member of Congress
Louise Slaughter, Member of Congress
Nita Lowey, Member of Congress
Rosa DeLauro, Member of Congress
James Moran, Member of Congress
Maxine Waters, Member of Congress
Sam Farr, Member of Congress
Betty McCollum, Member of Congress
Michael Michaud, Member of Congress
Jerrold Nadler, Member of Congress
Anna G. Eshoo, Member of Congress
Bobby Rush, Member of Congress
Zoe Lofgren, Member of Congress
Earl Blumenauer, Member of Congress
James P. McGovern, Member of Congress
Eleanor Holmes Norton, Member of Congress
Bill Pascrell Jr., Member of Congress
Barbara Lee, Member of Congress
Grace Napolitano, Member of Congress
Jan Schakowsky, Member of Congress
Mike Honda, Member of Congress
James Langevin, Member of Congress
Adam Schiff, Member of Congress
Stephen Lynch, Member of Congress
Raul Grijalva, Member of Congress
Tim Ryan, Member of Congress
Gwen Moore, Member of Congress
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Member of Congress
Yvette D. Clarke, Member of Congress
Keith Ellison, Member of Congress
Jackie Speier, Member of Congress
Charles Rangel, Member of Congress
Carol Shea-Porter, Member of Congress
Ann McLane Kuster, Member of Congress
Gerald Connolly, Member of Congress
Jared Polis, Member of Congress
Paul Tonko, Member of Congress
Mike Quigley, Member of Congress
Judy Chu, Member of Congress
David Cicilline, Member of Congress
Alan Grayson, Member of Congress
Dina Titus, Member of Congress
Matt Cartwright, Member of Congress
Jared Huffman, Member of Congress
Alan Lowenthal, Member of Congress
Mark Pocan, Member of Congress