Natural Resources Defense Council sues EPA to block Enlist Duo

By Sarah Gonzalez

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2014-- The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Environmental Protection Agency to block the use of a dual herbicide produced by Dow AgroSciences known as Enlist Duo.

The suit was filed in the D.C. Circuit court immediately after the EPA approved the use of the product, which is used to control weeds in corn and soybeans genetically-engineered (GE) to tolerate 2,4-D and glyphosate, two of the most widely used herbicides for controlling weeds.

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NRDC says the new weed killer “will wreak further destruction on monarch butterfly populations already devastated by agricultural chemicals and poses risks to human health.”

The group says glyphosate is the chief cause of the decline of monarch butterflies, whose migrating population has dropped by more than 90 percent in under 20 years. 

“…Glyphosate has wiped out the milkweed they need to survive,” said Sylvia Fallon, a senior scientist at NRDC. “EPA completely ignored the impact on monarchs when it granted this new approval, and seriously underestimated the toxicity for people.”

Although the group recognizes that deforestation and climate change have contributed to the decline in the species, “the massive loss of milkweed habitat is the main culprit.”

In August, the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety filed a petition seeking protection for monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act. The biotechnology and crop protection industries are directly targeted through the petition.

In its lawsuit, NRDC also raises health concerns about increased human exposure to 2,4-D, a herbicide that is part of Enlist Duo. USDA predicts Enlist Duo could result in a six-fold increase in the use of 2,4-D, NRDC noted.

“Solving one pesticide's problem by adding another puts us on a completely unsustainable path,” Fallon said. “EPA has started a snowballing effect of more and more powerful pesticides that threaten both wildlife and human health.”

EPA noted that its assessment of the product is the third time in recent years that it has evaluated the safety of 2,4-D. The agency comprehensively reviewed 2,4-D in 2005, in 2012 and again in 2014, each time finding that the use of the herbicide meets the safety standards for pesticide registration.

“Dozens of other countries including Canada, Mexico, Japan and 26 European Union members have approved these pesticides for use on numerous crops and residential lawns. Last year, Canada approved the use of Enlist Duo for the same uses that EPA is authorizing,” EPA noted. “The agency's decision reflects a large body of science and an understanding of the risk of pesticides to human health and the environment.”

The approved formulation contains the choline salt 2,4-D, which is less prone to drift than the other forms of 2,4-D, EPA will require users to maintain a 30-foot “no spray” buffer zone around the application area, among other use restrictions.

EPA's final regulatory decision document is available in EPA docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0195 at www.regulations.gov

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