EPA catches Dow in weed-killer lie, asks court to reverse approval

EPA versus Dow
CC BY 2.0 USDA/Wikimedia Commons

The agro giant made contradictory claims to the government about the herbicide Enlist Duo, the EPA isn’t happy.

Last year we reported on the EPA’s expanding approval of the “probably carcinogenic” herbicide, Enlist Duo, and how lethal the product could be to a number of endangered species, let alone us humans. Now comes super surprising news that the EPA has filed a motion with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse the approval.

The herbicide was created for use on corn and soybean crops that are genetically engineered to be resistant to the two active ingredients in Enlist Duo. Since weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate (also known as Roundup), the new product also adds a kick of 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D). 2,4-D is a systemic herbicide that was an ingredient in Agent Orange.

Dow asked for EPA approval to sell Enlist Duo in 2011. In their application they said that the mixture of glyphosate and 2,4-D is as safe as the two chemicals are when considered separately – as in, there were no synergistic effects when the chemicals were mixed. The EPA said OK and the company began selling the product this year.

The decision inspired dismay. Some worried about the implications for sustainable agriculture, farmers worried about the 2,4-D, since it’s known to drift into neighboring fields. Environmental groups worried that mixing the two chemicals could lead to synergistic toxic effects that were being ignored; and with that in mind, they took the EPA to court hoping they would overturn their decision.

And guess what happened. In the course of litigation the EPA came across Dow's patent application for the product. To gain a patent for a new product it must have novel features; the Enlist Duo patent application claims that the new mix offers a new type of "synergistic herbicidal weed control."

When the EPA requested information from Dow explaining these synergistic effects – which Dow had previously told the EPA didn't exist – the company replied with "extensive information" … of which after review the EPA went to court to reverse the approval until they had more time to evaluate the information.

According to NPR, the EPA's decision stunned both foes and friends of the new herbicide, adding that, “The herbicide's opponents, among them the Pesticide Action Network, the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity, celebrated.”

Dow made a statement saying that they expected the EPA to resolve the outstanding issues – and it seems that Big Ag usually wins in the end – but until then there’s hope that this potentially detrimental product will undergo the scrutiny it deserves.

Tags: Agriculture | EPA | GMO | Toxins

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