EPA denies NRDC petition to cancel 2, 4-D herbicide

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2012 -After more than four years of review, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied a petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) seeking to cancel use of 2,4-D, one of the mostly widely used herbicides in the world, because of what they described as a range of health and safety concerns for humans as well as animals.

In issuing the decision, EPA noted that the tolerance for revocation is lack of safety, and that NRDC failed to demonstrate the actual harm. The agency also took issue with the scientific basis for some of the evidence submitted by NRDC in support of its petition.

“The one-gen study provides an in-depth examination of 2,4-D's potential for endocrine disruptor, neurotoxic, and immunotoxic effects. This study and EPA's comprehensive review confirmed EPA's previous finding that the 2,4-D tolerances are safe,” the agency said.

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The herbicide, first approved in the late 1940's, is currently found in over 600 products applied to wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, potatoes, sugar cane, pome fruits, stone fruits and nuts. It controls invasive species in pastures, aquatic areas and federally protected areas and broadleaf weeds in turf grass, according to the 2, 4-D Task Force, an industry coalition opposed to the petition. The 2,4-D Task Force is made up of companies owning the technical registrations on the active ingredient in 2,4-D herbicides, including Dow AgroSciences (USA), Nufarm, Ltd. (Australia) and Agro-Gor Corporation (USA & Argentina).

An economic evaluation by the USDA concluded that the loss of 2,4-D would cost the U.S. economy $1.7 billion annually in higher food production and weed control expenses.

“The impact of this decision should not be understated,” said Jim Gray, executive director of the 2,4-D Task Force. “EPA's comprehensive review of one of the most extensive scientific data bases of a pesticide confirmed the agency's previous finding that the 2,4-D tolerances are acceptable.”

In 2005, EPA completed a review on the registration and on the safety of the tolerances for 2,4-D and determined that all products containing 2,4-D are eligible for reregistration, provided certain changes were incorporated into the labels and additional data were generated and submitted to the EPA for review.

But that wasn't enough for NRDC, which filed the petition in 2008 and filed a lawsuit in Feb. 2012 because the agency had failed to act by that time. The environmental organization remains convinced that EPA is wrong.

“EPA has chosen to put its head in the sand when it comes to 2, 4-D, ignoring the serious harm it poses to human health and safety,” noted Mae Wu, an NRDC attorney. “And if Dow Agrosciences' genetically modified 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybean crops gain USDA approval, the use of 2,4-D could increase dramatically. That puts thousands more Americans at unnecessary risk, further contaminating our air and water.

“Wide-scale application of 2,4-D will also threaten other crops grown downwind, since many plants are easily damaged or killed by 2,4-D. That puts other farmers' livelihoods at risk, along with their health,” she said.

As Agri-Pulse first reported in January, environmental groups are not the only ones expressing concerns about the potential for rapidly expanding use of 2,4-D.

Steve Smith Director of Agriculture for RedGold, an Indiana-based food processor, formed the Save our Crops Coalition, (SOCC) a group including growers, processors, home gardeners, pollinator advocates and scientists who want to “protect crops and rural landscapes from injury due to off-target drift and volatization from applications of dicamba and 2, 4-D.”

The group says that it is not opposed to plant technology advances, such as genetic modification. However, the SOCC says it does oppose regulatory actions that would result in herbicide use that causes substantial injury to non-target crops, and plans to make a case with USDA and EPA.

“The potential for a 600% increase in synthetic-auxin herbicide use threatens the survival of the specialty crop production in the Midwest. While we are not opposed to new technology itself, the widespread use of dicamba and 2,4-D is a threat to our business,” said Smith.


Original story printed in April 11th, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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