USDA Approves New Pesticide-Resistant Crops to Much Controversy

Washington, D.C.—In a move that has riled up critics of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and synthetic pesticides, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved modified corn and soybean seeds that are resistant to the pesticides 2,4-D and glyphosate.

Dow AgroSciences manufactures both these new GMO seeds and a weed killer called Enlist Duo, which is a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate. The crops were engineered specifically to tolerate the application of Enlist Duo. 2,4-D is already used in agriculture and has a history going back decades. It is known to be toxic to human beings, and exposure to it has been linked with the development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease and thyroid conditions, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG has released an analysis showing that more than 480 elementary schools are within 200 feet of corn and soybean fields that could be sprayed with Enlist Duo, which can travel by air and be inhaled.

Spurring the demand for these new pesticides is the development of “superweeds” that are resistant to glyphosate alone. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, an herbicide that has been part of a similar tandem for years along with Roundup Ready GMO crops sold by Monsanto. Critics allege the continued reliance on more and different pesticides only promises to increase pesticide resistance among weeds, and places us on a treadmill that escalates use of toxic pesticides in agriculture.

Delaying the adoption of these new GMO seeds is the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency has yet to actually approve Enlist Duo. Despite this regulatory hurdle, a Forbes investment report says that Dow expects to launch these new GMO seed varieties in the United States next year.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2014 (online 9/26/14)