Farm group seeks U.S. halt on "dangerous" crop chemicals

Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:23pm EDT

A field of corn near Monona, Iowa, August 16, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

A field of corn near Monona, Iowa, August 16, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

(Reuters) - A coalition of more than 2,000 U.S. farmers and food companies said Wednesday it is taking legal action to force government regulators to analyze potential problems with proposed biotech crops and the weed-killing chemicals to be sprayed over them.

Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical, and Monsanto Co. are among several global chemical and seed companies racing to roll out combinations of genetically altered crops and new herbicides designed to work with the crops as a way to counter rapidly spreading herbicide-resistant weeds that are choking millions of acres of U.S. farmland.

Dow and Monsanto say the new chemical combinations and new crops that tolerate those chemicals are badly needed by corn, soybean and cotton farmers as weeds increasingly resist treatments of the most commonly used herbicide - glyphosate-based Roundup.

"They (farmers) need this new technology," said Dow AgroScience Joe Vertin, global business leader for Dow's new herbicide-protected crops called "Enlist."

But critics say key ingredients in these new herbicides - 2,4-D for Dow and dicamba for Monsanto - already are in use in the marketplace and have proved damaging to "non-target" fields because they are hard to keep on target. Wind, heat and humidity can move the chemical particles miles down the road, damaging gardens, crops, trees. Many farms have suffered significant damage in recent years even though the chemicals are currently sprayed under tight restrictions.

"These are the most dangerous chemicals out there," said John Bode, a Washington lawyer hired by the Save Our Crops Coalition. Bode served as assistant Secretary of Agriculture in the Reagan administration.

Unlike many other protestors of new biotech crops, the coalition comprises many grower groups that use and support biotechnology. This is not a biotech complaint, they say, but one focused on the danger of the chemicals to be used with the biocrops.

"The danger that 2,4-D and dicamba pose is a real threat to crops...nearly every food crop," said Steve Smith, director of agriculture at Red Gold, the world's largest canned tomato processor, and a leader of the Save Our Crops Coalition.

The coalition represents more than 2,000 farmers and groups such as the Indiana Vegetable Growers Association, the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association, and major food processors Seneca and Red Gold.

Over the last four years, more than $1 million in damages have been filed in lawsuits and insurance claims by Midwestern growers who have suffered crop losses due to 2,4-D and dicamba that has drifted onto their farms, Smith said.

Those losses would increase with the new herbicide-tolerant crops because farmers would then be spraying more of the herbicides and later in the growing season, the coalition says.

In their legal petitions, the group is asking the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct an environmental impact study on the ramifications of a release of a new 2,4-D tolerant corn that is to be accompanied by Dow's new herbicide mix containing both 2,4-D and glyphosate. It wants a similar environmental impact statement on the dicamba and glyphosate herbicide tolerant crops being developed by Monsanto.

The coalition is also demanding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conduct a Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting and appoint advisors to the panel to address herbicide spray drift.

The legal petitions are provided for as part of the regulatory process and require a response from the agencies before petitioners can file suit to force a response.

Dow's plans to roll out as early as 2013 its 2,4-D tolerant corn and new 2,4-D based herbicide as the "Enlist Weed Control System" is a hot button issue for many groups because of high profile problems in the past with 2,4-D, which was a component of Agent Orange defoliant used in Vietnam.

A separate petition started by the Center for Food Safety says that 2,4-D, will "likely harm people and their children, including farmers, and the environment" and says USDA has not properly assessed the impacts of Dow's plan for a new 2,4-D based crop system.

Dow AgroSciences executives say the fears are unwarranted as their herbicide formulation does not have the problematic "drift" and volatility problems that other 2,4-D formulations have that cause farms even miles away to be impacted when one farmer sprays the herbicide on his fields.

Dow says as long as farmers use their formulation under their specifications, they would not have the same problems associated with current versions of 2,4-D on the market.

"We're highly into stewardship and want to be sure the farmers get this right," said Dow spokeswoman Kenda Resler-Friend.

"Nobody wants trouble with their neighbor. They want to do the right thing." Kenda Resler-Friend.

Coalition members say no matter how good Dow's formulation might be, generic versions of 2,4-D on the market will be much cheaper and many farmers will use those more volatile versions on the new 2,4-D tolerant crops.

(Editing by Ryan Woo)

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Comments (5)
AnandaMayi wrote:
Monsanto is a terrorist organization, plain and simple. It is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths across the world. I cannot think of a single other terrorist organization that has caused so much pain and suffering throughout the world. If I was potentially a terrorist and if I managed to cause irreparable and irreversible damage to the countryside to the tune that Monsanto managed to, I would describe myself as being incredibly successful. When you compare the number of people that died on 9/1 with just the number of farmers in India that died because of BT-cotton, you don’t even need to go further than that, they make Al-Qaeda look like a bunch of boy scouts. Why are those people not in Hague being prosecuted for crimes against humanity is beyond me.
Ah yes, there is FDA to. Don’t even get me started about that bunch of incompetent otherwise unemployable lazy low lives. It is time to stand up and say no to this terror.

Apr 18, 2012 3:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
umojaresearch wrote:
The Farmers and Food Companies fighting to halt “Dangerous” crop chemicals are fighting for safe food on this planet, at least in the U.S.

To understand why this battle is so important you would need to understand the underlying factors of Chemicals and Bio-Engineering of seeds and plants.

Although the article suggests the fight is more against this dangerous chemical than the bio-crops, is a matter of opinion. The underlying facts in all this is, the bio-crops by themselves have proven to be dangerous to animals and man, with serious problems of sterility, allergies, intestinal disorders and other illnesses’ associated with genetically engineered foods.

The chemical dangers are so great governments have tried to hide the dangers, hoping to somehow find a solution. In January 2011, over 4000 farms in Germany and the U.K. could not be sold because of the chemical dangers of Dioxin found in meat, eggs and cheese. This same problem reappeared in Germany and the U.K. again in April 2012, when organic eggs and pigs were found to have excessive levels of this dangerous chemical which is associated with cancer and other serious health issues for people consuming foods containing it.

In the U.S., cattle and pig farmers went bankrupt after their animals became sterile from eating grains chemically contaminated, or genetically engineered. The chemical dangers to the animals and livelihoods’ of these farmers, is a reminder of the real dangers we face with these chemicals. But what about the people who ate any of the meat of these animals?

The other factors mentioned in the article have to do with the damage to the environment and other farms anywhere near areas where these deadly chemicals are used. Certified Organic farms in the areas become contaminated from the overspray of the chemical moving through the air and farmers lose millions due to the contamination. The environment when contaminated produces super weeds and insects, which call for even stronger chemicals in the future.

History has already shown these chemical companies have in the past destroyed the environment, animal and human life, directly as a result of these deadly chemicals and they want you to believe the chemicals pose no threat. Again, History has proven there is a real threat and the future of life on this planet is at stake once again.


1. Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating, by Jeffrey M. Smith
2. The Regulatory Challenge of Biotechnology: Human Genetics, Food and Patents, Han Somsen
3. Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, William F. Engdahl
4. Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply, Vandana Shiva
5. DVD, Hidden Dangers in Kids’ Meals, Genetically Engineered Foods, Jeffrey M. Smith
6. DVD, Scientists Under Atack, Genetic Engineering In The Magnetic Field Of Money, Bertram Verhaag
7. DVD, The Future of Food, Deborah Koons Garcia

Apr 18, 2012 3:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
QuidProQuo wrote:
Yikes. These chemical weed killers are desgined to protect a few of our largest crops but at the same time potentially destroying non targeted agricultural products. It’s kind of a tough predicament to say the least. We cannot afford to have our three largest agricultural products destroyed by weeds and overtaking the farms, so there does need to be a way to control them. but the problem lies in resistance. Just as we are seeing antibiotic resistant bacterias thriving due to the over useage of antibiotics, so too we are going to continue seeing herbicidal resistant weeds take over due to the overuseage of herbicides. At some point things are going to get so toxic because at some point certain things just won’t die and the concentration levels of chemicals will be extraordinary.
This will be an ongoing priority for all areas of agriculture and hopefully there will be some reasonable approaches taken to both protect valuable crops and prevent destruction of other valuable agricultural products.

Apr 19, 2012 9:33am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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