For Immediate Release
Farmers Warn of Threats to Farm Economies Posed by Dow’s New Genetically Engineered Corn and Soybean Varieties
WASHINGTON - Today over 387,000 farmers, farmworkers, health professionals, and concerned individuals from across the country joined together in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reject Dow AgroSciences’ application seeking approval of controversial genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean varieties that are resistant to the hazardous herbicide 2,4-D.
In addition, over 800 farmers from across the country petitioned Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to reject the pesticide-promoting seeds, warning that their introduction would directly harm their crops, farm businesses, livelihoods and health. The comments were submitted Tuesday, March 11, the last day of USDA’s public comment period on its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a report that was supposed to assess possible harms associated with release of the new seed varieties. Thousands of additional comments critical of the GE seeds are expected to be submitted by the midnight deadline.
As USDA itself concedes, approval of 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans would lead to an unprecedented 200% to nearly 600% increase in agricultural use of 2,4-D by 2020, from 26 million to as much as 176 million lbs. per year. Independent scientists have projected far greater increases in corn alone. Even at current use levels, 2,4-D drift is responsible for more episodes of crop injury than any other herbicide.
“Farmers are on the front lines of this potential chemical disaster,” said Lisa Griffith of the National Family Farm Coalition. “Losing crops means they lose wages, seeds for future plantings and markets, which also stresses their communities.”
Karri Stroh, Executive Director of the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society explains, “Our farmer members raise a variety of certified crops, including organic soybeans, fruit and vegetables, that are highly sensitive to 2,4-D. If Dow’s new 2,4-D seeds are approved and planted, and 2,4-D use surges across the country, those crops and the markets that depend on them will suffer tremendous losses. Those of us who live in farm country know that drift happens.”
Texas-based Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance leader, Judith McGeary, added, “With its rich diversity of farms, Texas agriculture is particularly at risk. Our farmers have orchards, vineyards, and produce farms in close proximity to row crop operations. The high volatility of 2,4-D, especially of the older, still widely available formulations, means that all of these farmers are at risk.”
Critics point out that the main beneficiaries of the pesticide-promoting seeds are the pesticide manufacturers. “The new GE herbicide-resistant seeds are part of a technology package explicitly designed to facilitate increased, indiscriminate herbicide use and pump up chemical sales,” explained Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “These GE seeds are the growth engine of the pesticide industry’s marketing strategy. That’s why Dow itself describes weed resistance to herbicides as a ‘great opportunity for chemical companies.’”
“Dow Chemical’s 2,4-D resistant crops are bad for the farmer, the environment and the consumer. If approved, these pesticide-promoting crops will lead to millions of more pounds of this toxic pesticide contaminating our farms, our water, our air and our food. They will not solve our superweed problem, only spur the evolution of yet more herbicide-resistant weeds,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety.
The health of rural communities, especially children, is also at stake. 70 medical and public health professionals submitted a letter to USDA in 2012 warning of the severe health harms to rural communities that would likely accompany the expected massive increase in 2,4-D use.
“Many studies show that 2,4 D exposure is associated with various forms of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, hormone disruption and birth defects. Children are especially susceptible,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “USDA must take these significant risks seriously and reject approval of this crop.”
“Secretary Vilsack has repeatedly stated his commitment to family farmers, rural communities and the revitalization of our local food systems. Rejecting Dow’s 2,4-D seeds is the most important step he can take today to support our farmers and accomplish this aim,” said Margot McMillen, Missouri farmer, member of the Executive Council to the National Family Farm Coalition and a victim of 2,4-D drift.
Groups submitting public comments to USDA include the Center for Food Safety, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Food & Water Watch, National Family Farm Coalition, National Organic Coalition, Organic Consumer Alliance, Organic Seed Alliance and Pesticide Action Network.
PANNA (Pesticide Action Network North America) works to replace pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five autonomous PAN Regional Centers worldwide, we link local and international consumer, labor, health, environment and agriculture groups into an international citizens' action network. This network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to ensure the transition to a just and viable society.