* Farmer group cheers "new safeguards" on Dow Enlist
* Dow says will strengthen labeling on Enlist usage
* Dow says will take steps to ensure crop co-existence
* Opponents vow to sue if Enlist approved
* Opposition remains to Monsanto and BASF dicamba products
By Carey Gillam
Sept 11 A U.S. farmer group said on Tuesday it
is dropping its opposition to efforts by Dow AgroSciences to
roll out a new biotech crop system in exchange for a series of
commitments by Dow, including help investigating any accidental
The deal calls for "several new safeguards" from Dow
AgroSciences related to use of a reformulated herbicide and
biotech crops that Dow has engineered to be used with the
herbicide, and could help speed regulatory approval for the unit
of Dow Chemical.
The farmer group, called Save Our Crops, represents more
than 2,000 U.S. farmers and had filed legal petitions with the
U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection
Agency opposing Dow's new crops and herbicide, together dubbed
The group is one of many organizations that have protested
the proposed new crop system, citing feared damage and
contamination of other crops and harm to the environment and
Strong opposition remains. But Dow officials hope to have
regulatory approval in hand quickly so they can start selling
Dow's new biotech seeds in the next few months, Dow spokesman
Garry Hamlin said Tuesday. U.S. farmers generally start buying
seed in the fall for planting in the spring, and the selling
season is just kicking off this month.
"We've been signaling all along that we thought differences
like these could be resolved," said Hamlin. "We think we've
reached a favorable resolution. We want to be able to provide
this to growers for 2013. We recognize that it is September ...
but that continues to be our goal."
U.S. agricultural and environmental groups have been in an
uproar over Dow's intentions to commercialize new genetically
altered corn, soybeans, and cotton that will withstand dousings
of the new Enlist herbicide.
The herbicide combines glyphosate with a reformulated
herbicide known as 2,4-D that - while long proven as an
effective weed killer -- is controversial for its volatile
nature and toxic effects, and tangential ties as one of the
elements in the "Agent Orange" defoliant used in Vietnam.
Many farmers have protested Dow's move because they fear
rising use of 2,4-D will increase the damage already done when
2,4-D drifts on the wind into fields and gardens where it kills
not just weeds, but other plants and crops. Dow said it has
reduced the volatility and risk of drift with the new
As well, Dow has agreed to amend its labeling instructions
for farmers to specify for applications near sensitive crops.
And Dow AgroSciences has committed to assist in investigating
any damage claims on non-targeted crops, and in educating
growers and applicators in proper application to reduce off
target movement, especially in areas with sensitive crops.
"With this agreement ... we are no longer opposing the
Enlist program," said Steve Smith, director of agriculture at
Indiana-based Red Gold, the world's largest processor of canned
tomatoes, and a leader of Save Our Crops, the coalition that had
been battling Dow.
"We think Dow has done a good job understanding the
necessity to put several new safeguards in place," Smith said.
Enlist is the first in a planned series of new
herbicide-tolerant crops aimed at addressing a surge in weeds
that have developed resistance to Monsanto Co's popular
Roundup herbicide. Roundup use increased dramatically after
Monsanto introduced Roundup-tolerant, or "Roundup Ready," crops
in the mid 1990s. While Roundup once killed weeds easily,
experts say that even heavy use of Roundup now often fails to
kill "super weeds."
Chemical giant BASF and Monsanto plan to unveil
by the middle of this decade crops tolerant to a mix of the
chemicals dicamba and glyphosate. Smith said his group remains
opposed to the dicamba product.
Many critics remain opposed to 2,4-D-tolerant crops. Among
other things, they are concerned that greater use of 2,4-D, will
add to increased weed resistance. And several medical and public
health professionals have expressed concerns that increased use
of 2,4-D could be harmful to humans.
Critics have cited studies that report an association
between exposure to 2,4-D and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer
of the white blood cells that can be fatal. 2,4-D has also been
linked to birth defects, neurological damage in offspring, and
interference with reproductive function, according to critics.
"Opposition remains. This deal is a real disservice to those
of us who are trying to get responsible regulation on this,"
said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food
Safety, which has threatened to sue the government if it
approves the new Enlist crops. "We will sue."