* Dow AgroSciences awaiting regulatory approval
* Says ramping up seed production, hopeful for 2014 sales
* Critics oppose use of Enlist herbicide and Enlist crops
By Carey Gillam
Jan 18 A controversial new biotech corn
developed by Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical,,
will be delayed at least another year as the company awaits
regulatory approval amid opposition from farmers, consumers and
public health officials.
Dow AgroSciences officials said Friday that they now expect
the first sales of Enlist for planting in 2014. Previously
officials had set the 2013 planting season as a target, but U.S.
farmers are already buying seed for planting this spring, and
Dow has yet to secure U.S. approval for Enlist.
Dow wants to roll out Enlist corn, and then soybeans and
cotton to be used in combination with its new Enlist herbicide
that combines the weed-killers 2,4-D and glyphosate. The Enlist
crops are genetically altered to tolerate treatments of the
Enlist herbicide mixture. The hope is that Enlist will wipe out
an explosion of crop-choking weeds that have become resistant to
Opponents have bombarded Dow and U.S. regulators with an
array of concerns about Enlist, which is intended to replace
Monsanto Co.'s successful Roundup Ready system.
Genetically altered Roundup Ready corn and soybeans now dominate
the U.S. corn and soybean market.
But as Roundup Ready crops have gained popularity, millions
of acres of weeds have developed resistance to Roundup
herbicide, causing farmers to use higher quantities of Roundup
and other herbicides to try to beat back the weeds.
Critics warn that adding more herbicides to already
resistant weed populations will only expand and accelerate weed
resistance. Some have likened the problem to a "chemical arms
race" across farm country.
"Weed resistance to chemical herbicides is one of the
biggest problems farmers now face, and that is a direct result
of converting so much of our farmland to herbicide-resistant GE
(genetically engineered) crops," said Marcia Ishii-Eiteman,
senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network. "We need to get
out of this futile chemical arms race fast."
Earlier this month, Kansas State University scientists said
they have found evidence that some more weed types have
developed resistance to glyphosate. Researchers said they
sprayed two common weed types, Waterhemp and Palmer amaranth,
with up to four times the typical field use for glyphosate and
the weeds would not die.
Next month the Weed Science Society of America will examine
the weed resistance problems at a meeting in Baltimore.
Dow's Enlist herbicide is also controversial because 2,4-D,
or 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, was one of the ingredients in
Agent Orange, the Vietnam War defoliant that was blamed for
numerous health problems suffered during and after the war.
Although the main health effects of Agent Orange were blamed on
the other component of the mixture (2,4,5-T) and dioxin
contamination, critics say 2,4-D has significant health risks of
Several medical and public health professionals have sent a
letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture warning of health
threats that could accompany an increase in 2,4-D use.
But Dow officials said Friday that its product is needed
soon as market research shows that cropland acres infested with
glyphosate-resistant weeds increased 80 percent over the past
As it awaits regulatory approval, Dow said it would showcase
the Enlist system in five technology centers established in the
U.S. Midwest and U.S. South to train farmers and seed sellers on
Enlist's application and management. It also said it will offer
more than 100 small Enlist field plots at seed company and
retail locations and it is hoping to also set up on-farm
"experience plots" to demonstrate the product.
Dow said it plans on receiving U.S. regulatory approval this
year and will "ramp up" seed production and its supply of Enlist
herbicide to support commercial sales starting in late 2013 for
2014 planting. Canada granted regulatory approval in October.
"We are committed to introducing this technology responsibly
and sustaining it for the long term," Dow AgroSciences U.S.
commercial leader Damon Palmer said in a statement.
Critics said they hoped the U.S. Department of Agriculture
and Environmental Protection Agency are taking a hard look at
the potential problems associated with Enlist.
"Those of us who have concerns about this are all kind of
holding our breath... wondering one way or other what is going
to happen with this," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist
in the food and environment program with the Union of Concerned
Gurian-Sherman said Enlist represents a "head-in-the-sand"
approach to weed resistance. As well, an array of health and
environmental concerns associated with 2,4-D deserve strict
regulatory scrutiny, he said.
Many also worry that the new biotech crops will contaminate
conventional and organic crops.
"There are just some huge questions that Enlist and some of
these other crops have," he said.
The USDA has received more than 450,000 comments opposing
approval of the 2,4-D tolerant cropping system, according to the
Center for Food Safety, which opposes Enlist and has threatened
to sue the government if it is approved.