Friday, March 14, 2014

Agent Orange from farm to table

While my sister-in-law put the finishing touches on Thanksgiving dinner, I listened to her friend recount the losing battle her husband, a Vietnam veteran, fought with lung cancer. She explained her husband’s illness was caused by his wartime exposure to the toxic defoliant Agent Orange, produced primarily by two companies, Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

Decades after Agent Orange was sprayed over South Vietnam, we have borne witness to the human toll of exposure to its cocktail of chemicals, including 2,4-D. It would be wise to approach with extreme caution any regulatory action that would encourage more — not less — use of 2,4-D. What’s more, herbicide use on American farmland simply perpetuates a vicious cycle: Spraying leads to weed resistance, which leads to more spraying. The solution is to break the cycle by investing in a different kind of innovation, one that promotes ecological solutions to weed control.

On March 11, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service closed its public comment period on the question of regulating these new crops. If the USDA approves the seeds, the EPA still has to assess whether and how 2,4-D should be sprayed. Until then, environmental and health advocates, such as the Center for Food Safety, are urging Americans to air their concerns about this new use of genetic engineering. It’s time we pivot from a corrosive cycle and support the kind of innovations that get decades-old, toxic chemicals off our farms, fields and lawns.
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