(Beyond Pesticides, May 15, 2012) Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto have filed paperwork for Canadian approval of corn and soybeans genetically engineered (GE) to withstand heavy applications of potent herbicides, reports the Ottawa Citizen. The chemical companies are seeking Health Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency assessments for the introduction of four varieties of GE corn and soybeans engineered to tolerate the highly toxic herbicides 2,4-D and dicamba. In the U.S., the federal Department of Agriculture (USDA) is in the process of reviewing Dow’s application for its 2,4-D-tolerant corn, as well. Beyond Pesticides and others recently submitted comments to USDA challenging this approval.
Dow’s GE corn is modified to be tolerant to 2,4-D, which is contaminated with dioxin and linked to cancer, birth defects, and more. The company is introducing the new GE corn variety because weeds are becoming resistant to Roundup, the previous chemical of choice for herbicide-tolerant plants. However, solving herbicide resistance with a new, more toxic chemical is like using gasoline to put out a fire. It will cause even more damage to health and the environment, and in a few years, the pesticide industry will be marketing their next “solution” to the growing resistance problem. Dow 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. When Monsanto introduced glyphosate, it was touted as a safer and less toxic alternative to herbicides like 2,4-D, which has been extensively linked to cancer and other health problems.
In addition to 2,4-D corn, Monsanto has been partnering with BASF on dicamba and glyphosate-tolerant crop varieties since 2009 with a focus on soybeans. Dicamba is a neurotoxic chlorinated benzoic acid herbicide and recognized eye irritant, moderately persistent in the environment and highly mobile in both soil and water. Chronic exposure is linked to reproductive and developmental effects. The Ottawa Citizen reports that Monsanto would like to roll out its dicamba-tolerant soybean in 2014 and Dow hopes to have its 2,4-D-tolerant soybeans on the market by 2015.
Genetic engineering has grown drastically in the U.S. in the past two decades —from seven percent of soybean acres and only one percent of corn acres in 1996 to 94 percent of soybean and 88 percent of corn acres in 2011. In recent years, USDA has been on a fast-track to deregulate GE crops, leaving leery consumers and organic farmers behind to fend for themselves.
The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to choose organic. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited from being used. Unlike chemical-intensive agriculture and genetically engineered food, researchers continue to discover the environmental and health benefits of eating and growing organic food. There are numerous health benefits to eating organic, besides a reduction in pesticide exposure.
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.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.