With GMO crop 'super weeds' becoming resistant to RoundUp, a new weed killer – with ingredients shown to increase the risk of some cancers – has now been approved for use in 15 states.
In the age-old battle of man versus nature, nature is winning when it comes to weeds, which A.A. Milne once described as “flowers too, once you get to know them.”
Weeds are fascinating, and nothing if not determined. While anyone who tends to a patch of dirt knows this, it’s particularly well illustrated in the case of GMO crops. Genetically engineered corn and soybeans are designed to survive glyphosate – a powerful weed killer and the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp. The idea was to engineer crops that are immune to that which kills the weeds that threaten. So widespread are these crops now that farmers increased their use of glyphosate by more than 500 million pounds between 1996 and 2011.What’s a weed to do? Become a “super weed,” of course, and learn how to survive glyphosate. What do we do? Add even more toxic weed killers to the agricultural arsenal. Farmers are now turning to a new herbicide offered by Dow Agrosciences called Enlist Duo. Presumably, the “duo” refers to the one-two punch of glyphosate and 2,4-D.
In March of 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the WHO, elevated its risk assessment of glyphosate to “probably carcinogenic to humans” based on a review of the evidence by a panel of 17 leading oncology experts, reports the watchdog organization, Environmental Working Group (EWG). And both glyphosate and 2,4-D have been shown to increase the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, says the group.
Despite the potentially dire impact of these chemicals, Enlist Duo has been previously approved for use in six states – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin – and now the Environmental Protection Agency has expanded approval to another nine: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma.
“This poorly conceived decision by EPA will likely put a significant number of farmers, farm workers and rural residents at greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at EWG. “The agency simply ignored a game-changing new finding from the world leading cancer experts, and has instead decided the interests of biotech giants like Dow and Monsanto come first.”
“Instead of taking steps to protect the public from toxic chemicals, the EPA has only sped up the pesticide treadmill that will now put millions more people at risk,” added Faber. “These toxic herbicides easily make their way off farm fields and into the air and water we and our children breathe and drink.”
Furthermore, Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) estimates that the approval now puts over 20 endangered species in harm's way.
"This was an unbelievably foolish decision – Enlist Duo will harm dozens of endangered species, and is another nail in the coffin for the monarch butterfly," said Hartl. "Once again the EPA has turned a blind eye to endangered species, clean water and human health in its apparently endless desire to placate multinational pesticide companies."
Just who exactly is running this show?