The USDA is poised to eliminate the restrictions on seeds engineered to resist applications of 2,4-D, the chemical agent better known as one half of the recipe for Agent Orange—the potent defoliant used in the Vietnam War.
After farmers who bought into the genetically modified farming model started to notice pests and weeds becoming resistant to the chemicals commonly used in tandem with the seeds—mainly Monsanto's glyphosate herbicide called Roundup—the biotech industry began to look for stronger chemical killers, like 2,4-D.
Now, the USDA has released an Environmental Impact Statement recommending "full deregulation" for Dow AgroScience's corn and soybean traits that are resistant to 2,4-D. The products are branded under the "Enlist Weed Control System" label.
The Associated Press reports that it's a move "welcomed by many farmers but feared by scientists and environmentalists who worry it could invite growers to use more chemicals."
The nature of 2,4-D makes it toxic to plants early on in their growth cycles, but the modified seeds "would allow farmers to use the weed killer throughout the plants' lives."
But skeptics say that 2,4-D isn’t an answer to anything—it's just creating another potential rise in resistant weeds. "It's just so clear. You can see that you have this pesticide treadmill effect," Bill Freese, a chemist with the Washington, D.C.-based Center For Food Safety, which promotes organic agriculture, told the AP. 2,4-D skeptics like Freese are also concerned over the human health risks that could arise with approval of the seeds. "Freese said he would rather see farmers use organic means to control weeds," reports the AP, "perhaps by using cover crops that go into the ground after the harvest to hold soil in place and deter weeds until the next growing season."
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