Coalition of farmers and environmental groups to challenge EPA over Dow herbicide approval

By Ken Roseboro
Published: October 30, 2014

pesticides gm crops

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Lawsuit filed against Environmental Protection Agency for approval of 2,4-D/glyphosate mix for use on genetically modified corn, soy crops in six Midwest states

A coalition of farmers and environmental groups filed a lawsuit to sue the US Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of six Midwest states where a toxic herbicide cocktail called Dow’s Enlist Duo, a blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D, was approved on October 15 for use on genetically modified crops.

“2,4-D is a giant step backwards”

Approved for use on GM corn and soybeans that were engineered to withstand repeated applications of the herbicide, the creation of 2,4-D-resistant crops and EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo is the result of an overuse of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The misuse resulted in an infestation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds which can now be legally combatted with the more potent 2,4-D. Dow Chemical has presented 2,4-D resistant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance.

Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett believes the approval has left communities who rallied against the herbicide feeling abandoned by a government that should be paying attention to the people it serves.

“The voices of independent family farmers are being drowned out by the revolving door of corporate and government agency heads,” said Burkett, who serves as president of the National Family Farm Coalition. “It's time for our government to pay attention to the farmer concerns about the negative impacts of herbicide-resistant GMO on our food supply.”

“American farmers and our families are at risk,” said Iowa corn and soybean farmer George Naylor. “2,4-D is a giant step backwards—it’s just a terrible idea.”

“Sole purpose is to promote ever more herbicide use”

The lawsuit was filed by Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice in the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco) on behalf of Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America. 

The National Resources Defense Council filed a separate lawsuit in the DC Circuit Court to stop approval of Enlist Duo herbicide.

“This case will determine to a large extent the direction of US agriculture in the coming years,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety.  “EPA and USDA have bowed to the chemical industry and rubber stamped these genetically engineered crops whose sole purpose is to promote ever more herbicide use and fatten the bottom line of Dow and Monsanto.” 

While the EPA proposed initially to restrict the use of Enlist Duo to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, it’s anticipated the herbicide will be approved for use in another 10 states in the Midwest and South.

Massive opposition to GM crops and herbicide

There was massive opposition to the approval of Enlist GM crops and herbicide. Sixty members of Congress signed a letter opposing the herbicide and crops systems, as did 35 prominent doctors, scientists and researchers. 

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) stated, “EPA shunned its duties to protect the environment and safeguard public health by bowing to corporate interests instead of relying on science.”

More than 400,000 citizens submitted comments to the US Department of Agriculture opposing the Enlist GM crops, which the agency approved in September. In June, another half million people sent their objections to EPA during their public comment period for Enlist Duo herbicide. In October, a quarter million people told the White House to reject Enlist crops and Enlist Duo. Earthjustice collected more than 125,000 of the comments logged against the agency’s authorization for use of the powerful herbicide.

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times criticized the USDA’s approval of Enlist GM crops. “The way to deal with so-called superweeds isn’t by escalating the arms race against them,” wrote the editors.

“Sadly, our environmental watchdog is playing lapdog to the chemical industry, ignoring hundreds of thousands of comments urging it to do otherwise,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff. “The EPA is aiding and abetting the toxic spiral of using more and more pesticides to feed the industry’s sale of more and more genetically engineered crops while guaranteeing that 2,4-D use on our farmland will increase tremendously. The EPA’s heedless refusal to properly assess the impacts on human health to the toxic chemicals associated with this herbicide and failure to acknowledge any of the deadly effects on endangered wildlife, is grossly irresponsible—we intend to stop it.”

© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, November 2014