(Beyond Pesticides, January 5, 2012) Just as everyone was getting ready for the holidays, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved yet another genetically modified seed by Monsanto, a drought-tolerant variety of corn, MON87460. In addition to its announcement approving Monsanto’s newest GE corn variety, USDA also opened a 60-day public comment period for two additional petitions — one for Monsanto’s GE soybean containing higher levels of an omega-3 fatty acid, that does not naturally occur in soybeans, and the other from Dow AgroSciences for corn that has been genetically engineered to resist the poisonous herbicide 2,4-D.
“In 2012 the USDA is proposing approving a new GE corn variety that is resistant to a different toxic herbicide, escalating the toxic treadmill in chemical-dependent agriculture,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides. “This is nothing more than a band-aid solution to a serious problem, and will only give rise to more superweeds, more herbicide pollution in our environment, more herbicide poisoning, while likely leading to the need for even more toxic herbicides a couple of years down the line. This foolish circle has to end,” he added. [To listen to a radio interview on 2,4-D by Jay Feldman click here.]
While the USDA attempts to assure the public that 2,4-D is safe, scientists have raised serious concerns about the safety of this herbicide, which was used as a key ingredient in “Agent Orange,” used to defoliate forests and croplands in the Vietnam War. 2,4-D is a chlorophenoxy herbicide, and scientists around the world have reported increased cancer risks in association with its use, especially for soft tissue sarcoma and malignant lymphoma. Four separate studies in the United States reported an association with chlorophenoxy herbicide use and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. When Monsanto introduced glyphosate, it was touted as a safer and less toxic alternative to herbicides like 2,4-D. Now, an emerging body of scientific literature is raising serious concerns about the safety of glyphosate as well.
Research by the EPA found that babies born in counties with high rates of 2,4-D application to farm fields were significantly more likely to be born with birth defects of the respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as defects of the musculoskeletal system like clubfoot, fused digits and extra digits. These birth defects were 60% to 90% more likely in counties with higher 2,4-D application rates. The results also showed a higher likelihood of birth defects in babies conceived in the spring, when herbicide application rates peak.
In its petition, Dow AgroSciences states that 2,4-D is increasingly important for chemical farmers because of the presence of weeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate, as a result of the widespread use of Monsanto’s genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant crops. Farm research groups are also concerned with the impact of genetically engineered crops on organic farmers, whose organic crops are already at risk of contamination with Monsanto’s unnatural DNA, from pollen drift.
An online petition by The Cornucopia Institute opposing Dow’s 2,4-D corn variety, which will be sent to President Obama and Secretary Vilsack, can be signed here.
The news of the approval of drought-tolerant corn comes despite nearly 45,000 public comments in opposition to MON87460 and only 23 in favor, according to a Cornucopia press release. In addition, there are a host of problems with the new variety, including lack efficacy and health data. Back in May, USDA found that the crop did not perform well.
According to Reuters, the major U.S. area for adoption of drought-tolerant corn would be the Plains, which produce one-quarter of the U.S. crop, Monsanto estimated, as well as similar dryland regions of Africa, Europe and Latin America. Corn is the most widely grown U.S. crop and farmers grew 91.9 million acres of the feed grain this year, the second-largest area since World War Two.
The Cornucopia Institute reports that in the Environmental Assessment of the “drought tolerant” Monsanto corn USDA concedes that gene flow of corn pollen is likely to occur. It is well-established that corn pollen travels, and pollen from genetically engineered plants will contaminate natural corn plants.
“The irony, of course, is that organic fields and crops are much more drought tolerant, because common sense and field trials show healthy and biologically active organic soil retains moisture much better than tired and depleted soil on conventional monoculture farms, and organic crops are healthier and more robust than conventional crops,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, a researcher at Cornucopia Institute.
For more information on the failure of genetically engineered food, read “Genetically Engineered Food Failed promises and hazardous outcomes,” from the Summer 2011 issue of Pesticides and You, or go to our Genetic Engineering web page.
Send comments on the proposed approval of Dow’s 2,4-D tolerant corn until February 27, 2012. Submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2010-0103-0001. You only need to fill out fields that have an asterisk (*) beside it.
Additionally, an online petition by The Cornucopia Institute opposing Dow’s 2,4-D corn variety, which will be sent to President Obama and Secretary Vilsack, can be signed here.