USDA approves new Dow corn and soybean traits

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2014 - USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced a determination of nonregulated status for Dow AgroSciences' genetically modified Enlist corn and soybeans that are resistant to several herbicides, including one known as 2,4-D.

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The company said that with the approval, it is now awaiting EPA registration of Enlist Duo herbicide, the companion herbicide to the Enlist traits. It said approval is expected in the near future.

In a statement on its website, Dow AgroSciences said resistant weeks have more than doubled since 2009, infesting approximately 70 million acres of U.S. farmland, challenging farmers' ability to raise a healthy crop.

“Enlist will help farmers increase productivity to meet the growing demand for a safe and affordable food supply,” Dow AgroSciences President Tim Hassinger said in the statement. “We've used the latest science and technology to address problem weeds. Enlist will be a very effective solution.”

The agriculture sector generally will welcome the decision as many weeds have become resistant to an herbicide called glysophate that is commonly used on corn and soybeans now. Herbicide-resistant seeds introduced decades ago allowed growers to spray fields after plants emerged, killing the weeds but leaving crops unharmed.

Critics, however, say the increased use of 2,4-D could endanger public health. According to the Associated Press, USDA has said that if both the seeds and herbicide are approved, the use of 2,4-D could increase by an estimated 200 percent to 600 percent by the year 2020.

The Center for Food Safety condemned USDA's decision and promised to “pursue all legal actions to stop the commercialization of these dangerous crops.”

“2,4-D resistant crops pose a monumental threat to our nation's agricultural, environmental and human health,” CFS Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell said in a statement. “With this approval comes millions of more pounds of toxic herbicides dumped onto out land. It's an unacceptable outcome.”

It noted that 2,4-D was a component of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used in Vietnam, and that herbicides of its class have been associated with immune system cancers, Parkinson's disease, endocrine disruption and reproductive problems.

While the Agriculture Department only oversees the safety of the plants, the EPA oversees the safety of the herbicide for human and environmental health. The agency already has found the chemical safe for the public and agricultural workers.

APHIS said the notice of its determination will be published in the Federal Register in the near future.

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