When you hear “Agent Orange”, what do you think of? Death, destruction, war, illness, deforestation, CORN? Cancer.org explains our most common association with this herbicide:
During the Vietnam War, US military forces sprayed millions of gallons of herbicides (plant-killing chemicals) on lands in Vietnam and Laos to remove forest cover, destroy crops, and clear vegetation from the perimeters of US bases. This effort, known as Operation Ranch Hand, lasted from 1962 to 1971.
Different mixes of herbicides were used, but most were mixtures of 2 chemicals that were phenoxy herbicides:
- 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D)
- 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T)
Each mixture was shipped in a chemical drum marked with an identifying colored stripe. The most widely used mixture contained equal parts 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. Because this herbicide came in drums with orange stripes, it was called Agent Orange…
During the 1970s, veterans returning from Vietnam began to report skin rashes, cancer, psychological symptoms, birth defects and handicaps in their children, and other health problems. Some veterans were concerned that Agent Orange exposure might have contributed to these problems. These concerns eventually led to a series of scientific studies, health care programs, and compensation programs directed to the exposed veterans.
A large class-action lawsuit was filed in 1979 against the herbicide manufacturers, and was settled out of court in 1984. It resulted in the Agent Orange Settlement Fund, which distributed nearly $200 million to veterans between 1988 and 1996.
So why would the Obama administration be poised to approve Dow AgroSciences’ genetically engineered corn designed to resist the poisonous herbicide 2,4-D. I can’t even believe we use Agent Orange on our produce, let alone the need to develop resistant crops so that more of it can be applied. The Cornucopia Institute explains:
While the USDA attempts to assure the public that 2,4-D is safe, scientists have raised serious concerns about the safety of this herbicide, which was used as a key ingredient in “Agent Orange,” used to defoliate forests and croplands in the Vietnam War.
2,4-D is a chlorophenoxy herbicide, and scientists around the world have reported increased cancer risks in association with its use, especially for soft tissue sarcoma and malignant lymphoma. Four separate studies in the United States reported an association with chlorophenoxy herbicide use and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“The concern is that, just like Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn that is resistant to RoundUp™ (glyphosate) herbicide, the approval of a cultivar resistant to 2,4-D will cause an exponential increase in the use of this toxic agrichemical,” Kastel stated.
Research by the EPA found that babies born in counties with high rates of 2,4-D application to farm fields were significantly more likely to be born with birth defects of the respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as defects of the musculoskeletal system like clubfoot, fused digits and extra digits. These birth defects were 60% to 90% more likely in counties with higher 2,4-D application rates.
The results also showed a higher likelihood of birth defects in babies conceived in the spring, when herbicide application rates peak.
In its petition, Dow AgroSciences states that 2,4-D is increasingly important for chemical farmers because of the presence of weeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate, as a result of the widespread use of Monsanto’s genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant crops.
“In 2012 the USDA is proposing approving a new GE corn variety that is resistant to a different toxic herbicide, escalating the toxic treadmill in chemical-dependent agriculture,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides. “This is nothing more than a band-aid solution to a serious problem, and will only give rise to more superweeds, more herbicide pollution in our environment, more herbicide poisoning, while likely leading to the need for even more toxic herbicides a couple of years down the line. This foolish circle has to end,” Feldman said.
A 60-day comment period has begun and ends February 27, 2012. The Organic Consumers Association has an easy form you can submit online to Stop Agent Orange Corn! Full information about Dow’s petition and more information about public comments can be found at Regulations.gov.
Despite 45,000 public comments in opposition and only 23 in favor to a new strain of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, the USDA approved this latest crop over the holidays. It is hard not to be cynical the same thing won’t occur with Agent Orange Corn, but we have to try.
Some rights reserved by Christian Haugen: Image credit