USDA opens door to altered seeds

The U.S. Department of Agriculture opened the door Friday to commercial sales of corn and soybean seeds genetically engineered to resist the weed killer 2,4-D, which is best known as an ingredient in the Vietnam War-era herbicide Agent Orange.
AP Wire
Jan 6, 2014

The U.S. military stopped using Agent Orange in 1971, and it has not been produced since the 1970s. Scientists don't believe 2,4-D, which is legal and commonly used by gardeners and some farmers, was responsible for the health problems linked to Agent Orange.

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service published a draft environmental impact statement Friday as part of the process for potential deregulation of the seeds, which can now be used only in tightly controlled field trials. Deregulation would allow commercial development of the seeds and presumably lead to greater use of the herbicide.

The USDA has oversight over the seeds, not the herbicide.

The public has 45 days to comment on its report. The Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a separate review of 2,4-D, although it previously found it safe to use.

Some corn and soybean farmers have eagerly anticipated a next generation of herbicide-resistant seeds as weeds immune to Monsanto's Roundup, known generically as glyphosate, become more common. Most corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered, usually with the Roundup resistant trait.

But some scientists and environmentalists regard the development with alarm, noting 2,4-D can easily drift beyond the area where it is sprayed, threatening neighboring crops and wild plants.

The USDA's plant inspection agency found the greatest risk from the seeds, developed by Dow AgroSciences, was that increased use of the herbicide could hasten the evolution of weeds resistant to it. But it said resistance could happen anyway because 2,4-D, sold by Dow AgroSciences and other companies, is the third most-used weed killer in the nation.

The herbicide has had limited use in corn and soybean farming because it becomes toxic to the plants early in their growth. The new seeds would allow farmers to use 2,4-D throughout the plants' lives.

The EPA will look at the impact of expanded use of 2,4-D in a report expected to be released for public comment in the coming months. The EPA and APHIS are expected to make final decisions simultaneously on use of the chemical and seeds. The timing on that is uncertain.

Dow AgroSciences has asked APHIS to deregulate one variety of corn and two varieties of soybeans. Both soybean varieties resist 2,4-D, but they differ in their immunities to other herbicides. All three seeds have immunity to multiple weed killers.

APHIS said farmers could help deter the development of 2,4-D resistance by using a variety of means to fight weeds and not relying solely on it.

Scientists do not believe 2,4-D was responsible for the health problems in Vietnam veterans that have been linked to Agent Orange. Instead, they have focused on dioxin, a cancer-causing contaminant found in another ingredient known as 2,4,5-T. EPA banned 2,4,5-T in 1985.

 

Comments

EINSTEIN

Using any pesticide or herbicide should be illegal. Buy only certified organic foods if you can afford it. Meijers sells organic vegetables in a special section of the produce department. I wish that Walmart would do the same. It is best to grow our own fruits and vegetables but that is not always practical. The farmers market is a good alternative but always ask the vendor if their product was grown organically.

AprilMayJune

I'm with you Einstein. Certified organics are not supposed to have genetically modified organisms in them. But GMO's seed out to the wind and such seeds are eaten by birds and other animals only to be transferred beyond the original plantation.
Farmers have practiced hybridization using cross-pollination for thousands of years but that is not what GMO's are. With GMO's, the plant DNA is mixed with the DNA of another plant or unrelated plant species or even the DNA of animals or bacteria. Concerns have been raised about the limitations of modern science to fully comprehend all of the potential negative ramifications of genetic manipulation.

gordbzz231

i dont understand why all the fuss about chemically grown vegetables and grains, even animals are affected by the process, to be safe buy organic ? i always raised my garden on horse or cow poop by turning into the soil, organic cheese and egg,s, are kidding me ?

ClassOf99Mom

when anyone or anything starts to 'play' with the food my family eats, i'm concerned. it is difficult to eat 100% organic, unless you grow and make everything yourself, but we can make the best choices possible for our families. knowing where our food comes from and how it's grown is a great way to get started. i agree with EINSTEIN. there is a great farmers market, Sweetwater, open year round at the Hackley Lakes campus on Harvey Street by the mall that offers organic and natural products, open every other Saturday through the winter and every Saturday starting spring. Its amazing the selection they have even through the winter! And I just learned that Muskegon is now offering a good sized indoors farmers market every Saturday as well. Farmers are wonderful about giving helpful information on their product. As mentioned, many stores are beginning to offer a nice variety of organic produce too. So while I think its a challenge to eat 100% organic, unprocessed all the time, i have decided to make the best choices for my family by doing the farmers market thing through the winter. its awesome that we have that here in the Grand Haven area. That way, we are better informed about what we are eating...

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