(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2015) With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) nod to the pesticide industry on expanded uses of the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate, environmental groups are charging that the agency violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Repeating a pattern of putting the environment in harm’s way through violations of federal endangered species law, a lawsuit filed Friday documents EPA’s failure to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding the impact of the herbicide on two endangered species —the whooping crane and the Indiana bat— with the recent approval of Dow AgroSciences’ herbicide, Enlist Duo, for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops in six midwestern states.
Enlist Duo is an herbicide that incorporates a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, intended for use on GE Enlist Duo-tolerant corn and soybean crops. Approved for use on GE corn and soybeans that are engineered to withstand repeated applications of the herbicide, the creation of 2,4-D-tolerant crops and EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo is the result of an overuse of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The misuse resulted in an infestation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds which can now be legally combatted with the more potent 2,4-D. Dow Chemical has presented 2,4-D-tolerant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance.
“EPA admits that its approval of a toxic pesticide cocktail including 2,4-D for widespread use may affect endangered species, including the whooping crane, one of the most endangered animals on Earth,” said Paul Achitoff, Earthjustice’s managing attorney. “We ask only that the court decide whether EPA has violated the law, as we believe it has before putting these imperiled birds at further risk.”
By EPA’s own admission, whooping cranes “will stop to eat and may consume arthropod prey” that may have been exposed to 2,4-D in fields sprayed with Enlist Duo, and that in sufficient amounts, this exposure can be toxic to the cranes. According to the motion, the “whooping crane is one of the most endangered animals on earth. It was pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat to just sixteen wild and two captive whooping cranes by 1941. Conservation efforts over the past seventy years have led to only a limited recovery; as of 2006, there were only an estimated 338 whooping cranes in the wild.”
Similarly, EPA’s own analysis found that the Indiana bat would likely suffer from reproductive harm resulting from the consumption of 2,4-D-contaminated prey, as a direct result of EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo. In addition to habitat loss and cave disturbance, scientists have attributed pesticide contamination of the Indiana bats’ food supply as a reason for their continued decline.
EPA approved Dow’s Enlist Duo weed killer, which the Agriculture Department signed off on a month earlier, in October 2014.
The new seed and herbicide combination would harm more than just these two species. Critics maintain that Enlist Duo could result in other environmental and health problems. 2,4-D has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, and a whole host of additional health effects.
The motion filed by the farm and environmental groups Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice, National Farm Coalition, the Environmental Working Group, and others, with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, builds on a previous challenge of EPA’s approval of the new herbicide.
Join us in person to help us continue the fight against the dangerous wave of GE crops and chemicals. This spring is Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.