Dow Chemical Gallops to Monsanto’s Rescue To Eliminate Outbreak of HT* Mutant Weeds
|EPA “Rethinks” Toxicity of Dow’s New Old WWII Weed Killer and Then Suddenly Rethinks It Again|
Summary: Monsanto’s RoundUp can no longer exterminate mutant plant species that have developed tolerance to the once formidable industrial ag weed killer. Although the Monsanto Public Relations assault team denied the possibility from the start: Glyphosate-resistant weeds are now choking tens of millions of acres of American commodity-crop farmland. The solution is going to be more chemicals: Following perplexing re-reversals on the part of the Environmental Protection Agency, we can now count on Dow AgroScience ride to the rescue with good ole 2,4-D herbicide (now branded Enlist duo), one of the components in Vietnam War era defoliant Agent Orange. Look forward to another massive surge in chemicals dumped on farmland, whence they will make their way into waterways and lakes. After that, there is no reason to believe the cycle will not repeat.
Our story so far: When Monsanto first introduced its Roundup Ready GMO corn and soybean species twenty years ago, there was an outcry from environmentalists about the potential health effects of genetically engineered crops. Among GMO opponents, that unease has never disappeared, but they were massively outgunned as Monsanto, Dow and other biotech giants proceeded to all but lock up control of seed corn and soybeans in the USA and beyond.*
In the process, another topic took a back seat: the prediction by agricultural scientists that weeds would grow resistant to Monsanto’s RoundUp (glyphosate) herbicide. According to these experts, it was inevitable that weeds would develop immunity to glyphosate and new species would arise. In spite of the fact that this always happens and that evolutionary adaptation is a reality, Monsanto dismissed the possibility.
About a decade ago, super weeds such as Palmer amaranth (pigweed), ragweed, horseweed, kochia, Palmer amaranth and waterhemp began infesting American agribusiness fields. At least 60 million acres of US cropland have been invaded by these so-called super weeds. The science fiction scenario became real.
Background Pause: Scorched Earth Farming
Now we should adjust our verb tense: RoundUp used to exterminate everything in its path, but now the herbicide tolerant weeds are blowing in the wind. Monsanto hasn’t said much about Superweeds because their dismissal of the possibility of herbicide resistance has been proven inaccurate.
Even considering the artificial bias funded by biotech companies, it appears that the net result of GMO seeds has been financially positive for farmers. However, it has not beneficial to the environment because the increase in weed killing chemicals has been massive.
It is not easy to be fair to Monsanto, but in the company’s defense, it is true that it became easier to use RoundUp exclusively rather to practice other forms of weed control, including conventional methods and rotating weed killers. So when Monsanto maintains it’s their customer’s fault, not theirs, that is true to some degree. But the fact remains that herbicide resistant weeds are choking the farms of the US, and something needs to stop them.
The answer, of course, is more herbicides.
The Rehabilitation of Good Ole Dow 2,4-D.
When it became apparent that RoundUp was no longer up to the task, Dow AcroScience and others began working on new versions of HT seeds and lobbying for reintroduction of Dow Chemicals venerable 2, 4-D in the killing fields. One of the selling points for RoundUp/Glyphosate had been that it is less toxic than old line chemicals, including and especially 2,4-D. But because 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid might sound threatening to some, the new weed killer combo is called Enlist Duo Weed Control System.
(Get it? The old war chemical his been enlisted to fight the ever escalating war against evil weeds.) The Duo part means it has been combined with glysophate for extra killing power.
In November, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) petitioned the court to withdraw its own Oct 2014 approval of Enlist Duo herbicide, reportedly because Dow had provided incomplete data on the new formula, which includes both 2,4-D and glyphosate. The EPA was concerned that the combination produced a different level of toxicity that either one alone.*** The IARC – a WHO agency – has determined cancer hazards for a half century. It classifies 2, 4-D as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” For most of its history, the Environmental Protection Agency has also classified 2, 4-D as hazardous at specific levels.
At this point, it is unclear that the EPA knows what it is doing, but in a real sense it doesn’t matter. This agency is no match for the economic and lobbying forces arrayed against it by international chemical companies (exactly the people you want in control of your food supply). ****
Expect Enlist Duo to encore during the 2016 planting season. It will kill the new generation of super weeds…at least until they mutate again.
* Herbicide Tolerant, which means the seeds themselves are not killed by the weed killer
** Based on USDA numbers, GMO soybeans was 94 % in 2014 and in 2015; cotton was 91 % in 2014, but declined to 89 % in 2015; 89 percent of U.S. corn acreage in 2014 and in 2015.
***Consider, for example, that ammonia (NH3), a toxic and corrosive compound is composed of Nitrogen and Hydrogen.
****Hint: Michael R. Taylor, JD, Deputy Commissioner for Foods, is a former VP at Monsanto. How’s the chickens doing, Mr. Fox?