You may have heard of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange in reference to the U.S. Military’s herbicidal warfare program in Vietnam. The forests were sprayed with the goal of depriving guerrillas of their rural support and food supply by forcing peasant farmers to flee to cities, which were dominated by U.S. forces. One of many negative side effects of this policy is a toxic chemical compound within Agent Orange which resulted in an estimated 400,000 people being killed or maimed, and 500,000 children being born with birth defects. Today, a major component of Agent Orange (2,4-D) is still used to control the growth of weeds, and the Dow Chemical Company is seeking approval for a new genetically engineered corn (DAS-40278-9) which is designed to survive repeated spraying of the toxic herbicide.
Many studies have shown a proven link between 2,4-D exposure and the major health problems that those in Vietnam suffered, including cancer, lowered sperm counts, liver toxicity, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, neurotoxicity, and immunosuppression. The EPA reports that 2,4-D is the seventh largest U.S. source of dioxins, which are believed to be the major cause of many serious medical conditions, as well as the birth defects suffered by the children of parents who were exposed in Vietnam. If Dow’s corn is approved for commercial use, this will result in an increase in 2,4-D use. Yet, the USDA hasn’t conducted a thorough study of the harm to ecosystems, its effect on neighboring fields, or the evolution of 2,4-D-resistant weeds. Even though 2,4-D has a short half-life, it has been frequently discovered in surface water throughout the country and even in groundwater in five states and parts of Canada. Studies have also determined that, even in its current limited usage, 2,4-D likely poses a danger to certain animal species, such as Pacific salmon, California red-legged frogs, and Alameda whip snakes. We can only imagine what the results will be if 2,4-D usage is expanded. This 2,4-D-resistant GE corn will also be engineered to have a resistance to glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) and other herbicides, but there has been no meaningful analysis of these combinations and the potential dangers that could result.
Why is this “Agent Orange” corn even being considered for approval? Dow is toting it as a solution to weeds, which have become glyphosate-resistant as a result of GE Roundup Ready crop systems. Studies indicate that we will likely be replacing one problem with another, instead creating weeds that are resistant to both glyphosate and 2,4-D. This will continue our “chemical arms race,” with farmers responding with increasingly toxic herbicidal cocktails, resulting in more pesticide pollution, more disease, and higher production costs. In fact, the only ones who will end up profiting are companies like Dow. This is just one more reason to detoxify your body on regular basis!
- Philip Shabecoff. Herbicide exposure linked to greater risk of cancer. The New York Times. 1986 August 30.
- Marla Cone. Long-awaited dioxins report released; EPA says low doses risky but most people safe. 2012 February 17
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