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Daily News Blog

27
Oct

Lawsuit Challenges EPA on Toxic Herbicide Cocktail for GE Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, October 27, 2015) Late Friday,  a coalition of public health, conservation and food safety groups filed their opening brief in the ongoing legal challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of the herbicide Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered corn and soybeans. Enlist Duo, a blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D, was approved on October 15 for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops, despite concerns for human and environmental contamination. The challenge was originally brought in November 2014, shortly after the EPA approved the controversial herbicide for 6 Midwest states. Since then, EPA has expanded its approval to a total of 15 states, with more expected. Counsel from the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice are jointly representing Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, CFS, the Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America.

epa_seal_profiles“The Enlist Duo approval violated the laws protecting our communities, land, and farms,” said George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety senior attorney, counsel in the case. “Regulators bowed to the chemical industry, but we are committed to holding them accountable.”

The groups argue that in its approval of Enlist Duo, a combination of the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate, the agency disregarded negative impacts on sensitive species, including nearly two hundred species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), from the increased use of the toxic cocktail on crops genetically engineered to withstand its application. EPA’s own analyses also demonstrate plainly that the increased application of 2,4-D on Dow’s genetically engineered crops may affect nearby native plants, other valuable agricultural crops, and wildlife. In addition to environmental damage, these chemicals have been linked to a myriad of human health problems. 2,4-D has been linked to soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. Glyphosate has been recently classified as a human carcinogen  based on laboratory studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March.

“Allowing this 2,4-D/glyphosate cocktail to be sprayed on the up to 150 million acres of corn and soybean acreage found in these states may harm or kill dozens of imperiled species, as well as increase the health risk to humans,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff.  “EPA is supposed to be our watchdog, not the chemical industry’s lapdog.”

“With the expanded use of 2,4-D on GE crops, EPA ensures that the nation’s farmers remain on a pesticide treadmill, subject to an increasing reliance on more and more toxic chemicals,” said Jay Feldman, executive director at Beyond Pesticides.

EPA approved Enlist Duo to address the epidemic of glyphosate-resistant super weeds that now infest tens of millions of acres of U.S. farmland as a result of overuse of glyphosate —the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup— on crops genetically engineered to resist glyphosate’s effects. Dow Chemical has introduced 2,4-D tolerant  crops to as a short-term  fix to the problem, allowing farmers to douse their fields with both 2,4-D and glyphosate to kill these herbicide resistant weeds. Scientists, however, predict that the Enlist Duo “crop system” will only foster expanded weed resistance to the pesticides 2,4-D in addition to glyphosate, continuing the GE crop pesticide treadmill. In fact, in addition to corn and soybeans USDA announced in July that it has also added 2,4-D tolerant cotton to the lineup of available GE crops. 2,4-D is known to  drift for miles, posing a serious threat   to crops and farmers’ livelihoods.

“EPA’s reckless approval this dangerous pesticide cocktail puts hundreds of our nation’s most imperiled animals, like the majestic whooping crane, in harm’s way,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “EPA has left us with no choice but to go to court to stop this dangerous product from being sprayed across the American heartland.”

EPA’s assessment identified risks to endangered species like the whooping crane, gray wolf, and Indiana bat through consumption of prey contaminated with the toxic chemical. EPA violated both the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the ESA. Under the ESA, EPA is required consult with the expert wildlife agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, to address these risks but EPA refused to do so.

“The lack of oversight by federal agencies is outrageous,” said Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network and one of the plaintiffs. “EPA has ignored the threats to the health of rural communities and the livelihoods of farmers who rely on the agency for protection. Instead, EPA gave the greenlight to allow a dramatic increase in the use of the hazardous and volatile chemical, 2,4-D.”

Supporting organic agriculture can prevent the pesticide treadmill that results from the over use of pesticides like glyphosate and 2,4-D on GE crops. By utilizing ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive are the most appropriate and long-term solution  to managing unwanted plants, or weeds. Additionally, organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, mechanical production practices, and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. To learn more about organic agriculture, see  Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

For more information on GE foods and what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides Genetic Engineering Program Page.

Read the petitioner’s opening brief for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Case: 15-71207 here.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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