companies such as Monsanto andDow have recently created newgenetically engineered (GE) crops tobe resistant to highly toxic herbi-cides, including 2,4-D, one of themain ingredients in Agent Orange,the deadly chemical defoliant usedby the U.S. in the Vietnam War. TheU.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) is currently consideringapproval of one of these novel GEcrops. If approved, millions morepounds of this hazardous chemical will be sprayed, polluting our food, water, and air. This is just the latesteffort in the corporate chemical armsrace, and it will cause serious harm tohuman health and the environment.
What are GEnetically engineered Crops?
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is themanipulation of an organism's DNA using modern biotech-nology, developed to overcome the natural limitations—such as the species barrier—of traditional breeding. With thisnew technology, biotechnologists have engineered organisms with genes not found in nature, such as corn with bacterialgenes, “super” salmon with eel genes, rice with human genes,and thousands of other plants, animals, and insects. At analarming rate, these laboratory experiments are patentedand released into the environment and our food supply.Eighty-four percent of the GE crops planted today aredesigned to withstand massive applications of herbicides without dying. As more of these “herbicide resistant” (HR)crops have been planted, the massive increase in herbicideuse has triggered an epidemic of resistant “superweeds.”Now, in a misguided effort to fix the weed resistanceproblem created by first generation HR crops, biotechnol-ogy companies are racing to genetically engineer newcrops resistant to ever more toxicherbicides.Dow Chemical Company is cur-rently requesting USDA approval of the first of these new crops: a GEversion of corn that is resistant to 2,4-D. Commercial approval of Dow’scorn would trigger a large increase in2,4-D use—and our exposure to thistoxic herbicide—yet USDA has notassessed how much, nor analyzed theresulting impacts on public health,the environment or neighboringfarmers. Instead, USDA has onceagain bowed to industry, by givingpreliminary approval to yet anotherpesticide-promoting crop that willharm human health, the environment,and the farm economy.
Human Health Concerns
The scientific community has sounded alarms about thedangers of 2,4-D for decades. Numerous studies link 2,4-Dexposure to major health problems such as cancer, loweredsperm counts, liver disease and Parkinson’s disease. Studieshave also shown that 2,4-D adversely affects the hormonal,reproductive, neurological, and immune systems.Further, industry’s own tests reveal that 2,4-D is contam-inated with dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemical com-pounds that bioaccumulate up the food chain, potentiallyleading to dangerous levels of exposure. The U.S. Environ-mental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that 2,4-D isthe seventh largest source of dioxins in the U.S.
These new crops also pose serious environmental impacts.2,4-D is an extremely potent killer of desirable plants as well as “weeds,” and can cause substantial damage to native
a publication of the center for food safety ⁄ february 2012
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“Agent Orange” Corn:
the next stage in the Chemical Arms Race