WASHINGTON, April 29 – Some of the nation’s largest farm and commodity organizations sent a strong message to USDA Friday, urging support for the Agriculture Department to follow science-based decisions on new products derived from biotechnology.


The letter arrived just prior to the April 27 end date for comments on consideration of whether or not the agency should grant non-regulated status to a new variety of herbicide-tolerant corn, Dow Agricultural Science’s DAS-40278. That’s the regulatory name of Dow’s genetically engineered corn variety, which is resistant to the widely used herbicide 2,4-D and the subject of considerable controversy within the environmental community.


By some unofficial accounts, over 365,000 public comments have been filed at USDA.


Friday's letter to USDA was signed by the Agricultural Retailers Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Seed Trade Association, the American Soybean Association, the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, the Biotechnology Industry Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Cotton Council.


The organizations strongly urged the agency to reject petitions submitted to the Animal and Plant health inspection Service (APHIS) that would “unnecessarily delay science-based decisions on new biotechnology-derived products by requiring an environmental impact statement to consider the cumulative impact of the deregulation of auxin herbicide tolerant crops.”


USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is considering several petitions for nonregulated status for synthetic auxin herbicide tolerant crops. The first petition to be considered is Dow 2,4D Tolerant Corn. APHIS has two other 2,4D tolerant crops from Dow AgroSciences in its petition queue, DAS684164, a 2,4D tolerant soybean crop, and DAS444O66, a 2,4D and glyphosate tolerant soybean crop, and a dicamba tolerant soybean from Monsanto, MON877O89.


Other groups are trying to slow the process or stop approval altogether.


Citing the potential for crop injury from spray drift and volatilization, the Save our Crops Coalition (SOCC) recently petitioned USDA and EPA. The group of farmers and processors, including Red Gold, asked USDA for an environmental impact statement on the cumulative effect of using synthetic auxin herbicide tolerant crops, like Dow’s 2,4-D tolerant corn.


The petition also calls on EPA to conduct a Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting with the “appointment of additional advisors to the panel, as needed, to discuss and address herbicide spray drift and volatilization impacts associated with the use of such crops.”


Dow AgroSciences expressed disappointment in SOCC’s recent claims, “given that we have worked with many current members of the coalition for years and have produced a product specifically designed to address their concerns.” The company says Dow AgroSciences has developed a new herbicide, Enlist Duo, which features the proprietary Colex-D Technology.


“The 2,4-D choline to be used in the Enlist Weed Control System with our herbicide tolerant corn is a new product. It is not the traditional form of 2,4-D that SOCC is expressing concerns about,” noted a Dow spokesperson “With our new product, we have reduced volatility to near zero.”


In a separate letter last week, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) also said USDA should grant non-regulated status to DAS-40278-9,  noting that it will” provide farmers an important alternative to manage hard-to-control weeds and respond to potential herbicide resistance,” the organization noted.


“To remain internationally competitive and lead the world in achieving the productivity and efficiency gains required to meet the food, fiber and fuel demands and environmental challenges of the twenty-first century, U.S. agriculture must stay on the cutting edge of technology,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Farm Bureau members have a strong interest in maintaining and improving access to new input technologies, such as herbicide-tolerant seed, while preserving and enhancing the coexistence of diverse crops and cropping systems.”


A plant risk assessment conducted by APHIS “clearly justifies a determination of non-regulated status” for DAS-40278-9, AFBF told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in their letter. “APHIS has done a commendable job completing thorough plant and environmental assessments, which clearly indicate DAS-40278-9 is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk,” the letter stated.


Over the last 60 years that 24-D has been approved for use in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency has conducted detailed, science-based regulatory reviews to evaluate the human health and environmental safety risks of the product. In 2005, EPA reassessed 2,4-D and reregistered it for use on crops including corn. Earlier in April, EPA issued a decision not to re-open the safety assessment for 2,4-D based on review of the best available science.



Revised 9:34 to add National Corn Growers Association to list of signatures 


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