Farmers and food industry representatives are demanding a probe into the potential outcome of a new genetically modified crop in combination with the usage of the 2,4-D pesticide.
Dow Chemical is currently awaiting the go-ahead from the U.S. government to start using a new genetically modified corn crop. This crop has been modified to be resistant to a powerful pesticide produced with 2,4-D.
2,4-D was a compound that was crucial to the make-up of the notorious Agent Orange, which killed so many people during the Vietnam war and causes birth defects right up to the present time in that country. Agent Orange was responsible for over 400,000 deaths in Vietnam. 3 million people contracted diseases like cancer, liver damage and heart disease. Over half a million babies were born with heartbreaking birth defects in Vietnam.
If approved, this new corn would be able to "thrive" when doused with the pesticide in farmers' fields and would apparently eradicate unwanted weeds along the way.
However, opponents to the new crop are concerned that the use of this chemical could be catastrophic to plants, people and the agricultural industry as a whole.
Attorney John Bode told Reuters: "These are the most dangerous chemicals out there."
Bode formerly served as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture in the Reagan administration, and is currently fighting on behalf of the Save our Crops Coalition who demand that Washington intervene in the current situation.
Bode says that while the Natural Resources Defense Council has tied 2,4-d to cases of genetic mutations, neurotoxicity and cancer in humans, it is not just humans that would be affected. The Save our Crops Coalition state: “These herbicides have been known to drift and volatilize to cause damage to plants over 10 miles away from the point of application,”
Because of this new strain, on Wednesday a coalition of over 2,000 farmers and food industry representatives started threatening to take the U.S. government to court, to ensure that feds take notice and investigate the potential outcome of this new GM crop.
While the Environmental Protection Agency does recognise dangers with the use of 2,4-D, they threw out a petition last week asking them to ban the sale of the pesticide.
Pleas from opponents at the Center of Food Safety and National Resource Defense Council fell on deaf ears, as the EPA have said they will continue to allow the pesticide to be sold.
Opponents are concerned that 2,4-D, currently regularly used on crop fields, when combined with the introduction of a corn variant immune to it, could cause a spike in sales, but also in chemical-related disease.
Dr Gina Solomon of the University of California, San Francisco OEM Resident and Fellowship Program has written: “There’s no reason to continue allowing a toxic Agent Orange-ingredient in the places our children play, our families live and our farmers work. EPA must step up and finally put a stop to it.”
On top of Dow's plan to use 2,4-D on new crops immune to the effects of the chemical, the Monsanto Corporation also has a new crop planned, which will be resistant to a similar herbicide, dicamba.
Steve Smith, who is Director of Agriculture at Red Gold has told Reuters: "The danger that 2,4-D and dicamba pose is a real threat to crops…nearly every food crop,"
Red Gold is the world's largest canned tomato processor, and Smith is a leader in the Save Our Crops Coalition. Other companies that grow crops for brands including Seneca and Del Monte have also joined the coalition, together with the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association and the Indiana Vegetable Growers Association.
Despite the fact that the EPA has given the go-ahead to continue sales of 2,4-D, the opposing coalition is requesting that the agency conduct a Scientific Advisory Panel meeting to address the issue of the herbicide spray drift.
The Save Our Crops Coalition have also demanded through their lawyers that the USDA investigate the environmental impact should the new GMO crop be approved and the usage of such pesticides increase.
Under the US federal regulatory process, both the EPA and USDA are required to respond to the coalition's legal petition. Once this response is received, they can then file a federal lawsuit to request answers to their petition.
The video below discusses the dangers of the pesticides and new GMO crops: