USDA recommends deregulation for Dow's 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2014 -- USDA said in a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) today that full deregulation is the “preferred alternative” for Dow AgroSciences' corn and soybean traits resistant to the herbicide 2, 4-D. 

The products included in the EIS are Dow's herbicide-resistant corn and soybean of the Enlist™ Weed Control System. The genetically engineered plants are the first developed to be resistant to 2,4-D and have been under USDA review for several years.

Dow said 86 percent of corn, soybean and cotton farmers in the South are impacted by herbicide-resistant or hard-to-control weeds and the number of farmers in the Midwest impacted by similar weeds now tops 61 percent.

“Growers need new tools now to address this challenge,” noted the company's statement in response to USDA's draft EIS.

“We are on a trajectory for continued weed resistance and thus major adverse impact on crop productivity,” said weed science expert, Stephen Powles, Ph.D. “To fight resistance we need herbicide diversity and alternative technologies. Enlist is one such diversity tool.”  

Environmental groups quickly responded to the announcement. The Center for Food Safety emphasized its opposition to USDA's recommendation.

“If finalized, this decision would launch American agriculture into a new era of vastly increased dependence on more toxic pesticides,” said Center for Food Safety executive director Andrew Kimbrell. “The Obama Administration must overturn this dangerous and misguided proposal.”

The EIS considered four alternatives: keep all the GE corn and soybean plants under Plant Protection Act regulation; deregulate the GE corn plant only; deregulate the two GE soybean plants only; or deregulate both the GE corn and soybean plants. 

Along with USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting risk assessments to determine approval of the proposed new uses of 2,4-D herbicide.

The draft EIS will be open for public comment for 45 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, expected within the next week.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced in May that it would require a more stringent environmental review of Enlist crops waiting to be approved for the market. 

When USDA announced its intention to continue its regulatory review, it cited public concerns about the potential increased volume of herbicides and their movement onto non-target crops in surrounding areas, as well as the potential for the development of herbicide-resistant weeds.

In November 2011, APHIS announced it would begin improving the overall timeline for biotechnology approvals by standardizing its process. Dow AgroSciences began data submissions for its Enlist traits four years ago and has submitted farmer petitions to the agency to encourage approval.

Canadian regulatory authorities approved Dow's 2, 4-D resistant corn and soybean traits in October, allowing cultivation of the traits for the first time in 2014.  

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