The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was sued by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) over the approval of Enlist Duo, a Dow AgroScience product. The lawsuit was filed soon after the EPA approved the weed control product. The NRDC contends Enlist Duo will further deplete the monarch butterfly population and it is also a risk to human health.
Enlist Duo, a herbicide, contains glyphosate and 2,4-D rousing health, wildlife, and environmental concerns. 2,4-D is a known component in Agent Orange. It has been linked to life-long health conditions and severe birth defects, as well as deaths. Dow hoped to sell specialty crops along with Enlist Duo in the 2015 U.S. planting season.
The EPA has issued first time restrictions as part of the approval of Enlist Duo. The government branch also stated the process was could be a template for future approvals of herbicides for genetically modified crops (GMO). Dow is required to track and report on weed resistance to their product. The EPA has issued a 30 foot in field no spray zone for application areas. Enlist Duo is also banned from being used when wind speeds are above 15 miles per hour.
The herbicide has been approved for use in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The EPA has 10 other states under consideration for approval for GMOs and the herbicide from Dow. Specialty crops have been genetically modified to tolerate the Enlist Duo herbicide. Enlist corn and soybean will be sold along with the herbicide, as soon as 2015’s planting season. The combination allows farmers to spray their crops and only destroy weeds. The EPA has received over 400,000 comments regarding Enlist and will continue to accept input until November 2014 regarding the other states’ approval.
Concerns from opposing environmentalists, organic consumers, and farmers are running rampant. They claim 2,4-D, which is a component of Enlist, has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, reproductive issues, and other health conditions. Another concern is the possibility that the herbicide may harm neighboring farms. The EPA states it has made the decision based on sound science and conservative measurements. Yet, opponents and neighbors point to over 70 million acres affected by super weeds. These weeds have tolerance to Round up Ready System, which is another herbicide product used by farmers. Moreover, the Natural Defense Council’s lawsuit is an effort to prevent the EPA from allowing Dow to sell Enlist Duo until further tests are done and other agencies are included in the process. According to Sylvia Fallon, a scientist at NRDC, glyphosate has wiped out milk weed, which is a necessary staple for the monarch butterfly and the EPA has not considered this impact prior to approval of Enlist.
The 2,4-D is one of two active ingredients in Agent Orange and when mixed with 2,4,5-T form a highly toxic chemical agent. The chemicals have devastating effects on foliage and people. During the Vietnam War, usage of these chemical agents contributed to horrific birth defects, various forms of cancer, and long-lasting soil contamination. Scientists are split on the effects of 2,4-D alone to humans and animals. It is highly toxic to fish, so keeping it out of rivers and lakes are a valid concern.
The use of 2,4-D may help farms eliminate highly resistant “super weeds” caused by other herbicides. The EPA hopes that by controlling usage and monitoring effects on weeds, U.S. food production will increase with the GMOs. The EPA being sued by the Natural Defense Council is something Dow had not considered. Dow figured the approval had cleared the way for its soybean and corn that have been genetically modified. European Union members and the U.S. have been at odds with regard to modified foods. As a result, this conflict has caused a multi-billion dollar agricultural imbalance. Dow expects to double its earnings from the Dow AgroScience division in seven years or less. Opponents say the approval will just increase the number of intractable weeds. Dow will have to reapply with the agency to sell Enlist after 2020, according to Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
By Oliver L. Malcom, Jr.