Agent Orange 2.0? Why Won't The EPA Ban Toxic 2,4-D?

Crops

The NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) did not have a good week.

After news that the FDA dismissed a federal court ruling that the agency needed to enforce viable options for dealing with antibiotic resistant pathogens resulting from the overuse of antibiotics in livestock feed, word came that the EPA denied the organization’s petition to ban the chemical 2,4-D.

2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid is one half of the toxic Vietnam War pesticide, Agent Orange, and the most commonly used pesticide in the world. It has been linked with a number of human health issues including cancer and birth defects.

The petition was filed by the NRDC in 2008, but the agency did not make its ruling until this week. Deciding against the organization’s suggested restrictions, the EPA stated, “the data are not sufficient to conclude that there is a cause and effect relationship between exposure to 2,4-D and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.’’

In a statement released by the NRDC, the organization said, “By down-playing the scientific evidence linking this pesticide to health concerns, the EPA shifts toward under-protecting human health. And while the current use of 2,4-D is cause for concern, changes on the horizon in U.S. agriculture are cause for greater alarm.”

Concerns over the EPA’s denial of the NRDC’s petition are heightened by the pending requests for approval by Dow AgroSciences on genetically modified seeds that have been engineered to resist 2,4-D. Genetically modified seeds are most typically engineered to resist glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto as Roundup), but resistance to the chemical by certain plant and animal species has triggered chemical and seed companies to look at stronger chemicals, like 2,4-D, to also be used on GMO crops.  The NRDC says the EPA’s dismissal doesn’t bode well for human health, farmers or the environment, “The Agency needs to wake up to the new reality and reevaluate 2,4-D in light of the new expansion in use.”

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Image: Peter Blanchard

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. Twitter @jillettinger | www.jillettinger.com.