Chemical Arms Race in America Agent Orange Corn Next

B. McPherson

There’s an arms race going on in N. America’s cornfields. The race is developing genetically modified crops to resist ever more lavish spraying of herbicides. An early winner in the weed race was Monsanto, a corporation that developed seeds containing weed genes that could resist the spraying of that other Monsanto product, Roundup.

Roundup was an effective weed/plant killer for many years, but gradually as Nature will do, some weeds survived Roundup to reproduce. So farmers sprayed Roundup(or the generic glyphosate) in ever heavier doses. The effect has been to breed a wide number of SuperWeeds that will not die when sprayed with the herbicide.

Now rival Agro company Dow AgroSciences has developed a GM corn that carries a gene resistant to Dow Chemical’s herbicide 2,4-D. It is seeking to be allowed to start widespread planting of the genetically altered seeds in time for the 2013 crop year.

Fields planted with the new corn, dubbed Enlist, could be sprayed with the defoliant and not die. Many farmers who neighbour these fields could suffer major crop damage to their broad leafed plants.  In addition to killing broad leafed plants such as grapes, cabbage, deciduous trees, 2,4-D is a major component of Agent Orange that notorious herbicide that has caused so much sickness and birth defects.

“Others fear Enlist and 2,4-D may only be only the beginning of a new wave of dangerous farm chemicals. Chemical giant BASF (BASFn.DE) and Monsanto plan to unveil by the middle of this decade crops tolerant to a mix of the chemicals dicamba and glyphosate.” GM Watch

2,4-D is currently used in many domestic and agricultural uses. Many people attain a weed free grass lawn by applying it. Golf courses routinely apply it and agricultural uses may encompass wheat and other grains.
The manufacture of 2,4-D may contaminate the plant hormone with dioxin, a powerful poison.

The phasing out of Monsanto’s glyphosate may be welcome, but the replacement with Dow’s 2,4-D may bring on more unintended consequences. Numerous serious health effects from exposure to the chemical have been noted for quite some time. One dispassionate reference may be Cornell University’sfact sheet.

The news that yet another iteration of a GM, weed resistant organism is being considered for widespread planting is ironic in light of the very real and environmentally responsible work being done by HarvestPlus in breeding more nutritious and hardy plants.

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