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'Agent Orange Corn' One Step Closer to Approval

- by Andrea Germanos, staff writer

The genetically engineered product dubbed "Agent Orange corn" by its opponents may be closer to gaining EPA approval after a coalition of farmers dropped its opposition to the Dow product on Tuesday.

"This agreement between Dow and the Save our Crops Coalition does nothing to mitigate the threats that this 2,4-D tolerant crop poses on human health and the environment," says Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch. (photo: Peter Blanchard via Flickr) The farmer group, the Save Our Crops Coalition (SOCC), had previously denounced 'Enlist,' a genetically modified crop able to withstand being sprayed with 2,4-D, one of the components of Agent Orange.  But on Tuesday SOCC released a joint statement with Dow, stating that it had resolved its issues, and that "SOCC believes that commitments made by Dow AgroSciences represent substantial measures to mitigate potential non-target plant damage impacts from herbicide spray drift and volatilization associated with 2,4-D tolerant crops."

Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director at the Organic Consumers Association, tells Common Dreams that "The Save Our Crops Coalition is narrowly focused on the economic interests of farmers whose crops could be injured by 2,4-D herbicide drift."  She adds that "the other thing farmers in the SOCC don't have to worry about is 2,4-D becoming ineffective against weeds when the weeds acquire the genetically engineered trait that makes Dow's GMO crops 2,4-D tolerant. This problem will only hurt the farmers growing crops marketed as 2,4-D tolerant. They might work in the short-term, but as we've seen with the 'RoundUp Ready' and Bt crops, they are quick to pass on their engineered traits to pests."

The opponents of "Agent Orange corn" also highlight the potential impacts on human health and the environment.  Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, says there continues to be serious cause for concern.

"This agreement between Dow and the Save our Crops Coalition does nothing to mitigate the threats that this 2,4-D tolerant crop poses on human health and the environment and only further illustrates ironclad control that Big Agribusiness holds over our food system. Many studies prove that 2,4 D exposure is associated with various forms of cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, nerve damage, hormone disruption and birth defects and evidence is mounting that 2,4-D is quickly following in the disgraced footsteps of Monsanto's Roundup as giving rise to unkillable superweeds. The health of consumers, our soil and farm workers is once again left in the figurative and potentially literal dust," Hauter told Common Dreams.

Baden-Mayer echoes the concerns over human health.  "If we continue to be exposed to ever increasing levels of 2,4-D in our food, we are going to suffer escalating rates of disease, especially cancer and birth defects," stated Baden-Mayer. 

"2,4-D tolerant GMO crops haven't been safety tested for human consumption," added Baden-Mayer.  "The FDA doesn't require that. They only conduct voluntary consultations with the manufacturers of GMOs on human health impacts. There's no independent review. So, we really have no idea what will happen when people start eating 2,4-D tolerant crops, and we probably never will. They'll enter the food supply unlabeled, primarily as animal feed and ingredients in junk foods. We're seeing an uptick in diet-related diseases, but it's impossible to identify the role of GMOs in that. The small amount of research we have on the body's reaction to GMOs is that they are perceived as foreign or toxic, triggering allergic reactions and immune responses or damaging the kidneys and liver."

Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, previously warned of the dangers of the Dow’s "Agent Orange" corn, and noted how it sets up a "chemical arms race."

“This novel corn will foster resistant weeds that require more toxic pesticides to kill, followed by more resistance and more pesticides—a chemical arms race in which the only winners are pesticide/biotechnology firms.”

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