News Release: October 22, 2014
Lawsuit filed against Environmental Protection Agency for approval of 2,4-D use on genetically engineered corn, soy crops in six Midwest states
San Francisco, CA – A coalition of farmers and environmental groups filed a lawsuit to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today on behalf of six Midwest states where a toxic herbicide cocktail called Dow’s Enlist Duo, a blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D, was approved on October 15 for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops.
Approved for use on GE corn and soybeans that were engineered to withstand repeated applications of the herbicide, the creation of 2,4-D-resistant crops and EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo is the result of an overuse of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The misuse resulted in an infestation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds which can now be legally combatted with the more potent 2,4-D. Dow Chemical has presented 2,4-D resistant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance.
Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett believes the approval has left communities who rallied against the herbicide feeling abandoned by a government that should be paying attention to the people it serves.
“The voices of independent family farmers are being drowned out by the revolving door of corporate and government agency heads,” said Burkett, who serves as president of the National Family Farm Coalition. “It’s time for our government to pay attention to the farmer concerns about the negative impacts of herbicide-resistant GMO on our food supply.”
“American farmers and our families are at risk,” said Iowa corn and soybean farmer George Naylor. “2,4-D is a giant step backwards – it’s just a terrible idea.”
The lawsuit was filed by Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice in the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco) on behalf of Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America.
The groups are challenging the approval under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), arguing that the EPA did not adequately analyze the impacts of 2,4-D on human health. They will also argue that the approval violated the Endangered Species Act, as there was no consult by the EPA with the Fish & Wildlife Service.
“Rural communities rely on EPA to take its job seriously — to fully consider potential health impacts before introducing new products or allowing a dramatic increase in use of a hazardous and volatile chemical like 2,4-D,” said Pesticide Action Network North America’s senior scientist Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD.“Instead, EPA has given the greenlight to an enormous increase in toxic pesticide exposure.”
While the EPA proposed initially to restrict the use of Enlist Duo to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, it’s anticipated another 10 states will follow. The agency is currently accepting comments until November 14, 2014 on whether to register the herbicide cocktail in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota.
“Sadly, our environmental watchdog is playing lapdog to the chemical industry, ignoring hundreds of thousands of comments urging it to do otherwise,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff. “The EPA is aiding and abetting the toxic spiral of using more and more pesticides to feed the industry’s sale of more and more genetically engineered crops while guaranteeing that 2,4-D use on our farmland will increase tremendously. The EPA’s heedless refusal to properly assess the impacts of expanded on human health, to the toxic chemicals associated with this herbicide, and failure to acknowledge any of the deadly effects on endangered wildlife, is grossly irresponsible – we intend to stop it.”
“This case will determine to a large extent the direction of U.S. agriculture in the coming years,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of Center for Food Safety. “EPA and USDA have bowed to the chemical industry and rubber stamped these genetically engineered crops whose sole purpose is to promote ever more herbicide use and fatten the bottom line of Dow and Monsanto. Unless stopped, these crops will lead to a massive increase in the spraying of toxic chemicals and an increasing plague of herbicide resistant weeds that will choke America’s farmlands and threaten the livelihoods of our farmers.”
“EPA’s unfortunate decision to approve Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered crops will more than triple the amount of 2,4-D sprayed in the U.S. by the end of this decade,” said Environmental Working Group’s senior policy analyst Mary Ellen Kustin. “Such an increase of a known toxic defoliant linked to Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and reproductive problems is unconscionable.”
“The toxic treadmill has to stop,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “EPA and USDA cannot continue to ignore the history, science, and public opinion surrounding these dangerous chemicals so that a failed and unnecessary system of chemically-dependent agriculture can continue to destroy our health and environment.”
“When the EPA approved Enlist Duo, it knew this pesticide would contaminate our streams and rivers,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There is absolutely no doubt that the pesticide will harm dozens of endangered species like the American burying beetle, pallid sturgeon, and highly-endangered freshwater mussels.”
On September 16, 2014, the USDA issued its decision deregulating Enlist corn and soy, further paving the way for the EPA to approve the herbicide’s use on these crops. During the official public comment period on the USDA’s analysis of 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans this spring, 400,000 citizens submitted comments opposing the crops. In June, another half million people sent their objections to EPA during their public comment period. Just this last month, a quarter million people told the White House to reject Enlist crops and Enlist Duo. Earthjustice collected more than 125,000 of the comments logged against the agency’s authorization for use of the powerful herbicide.
Betsy Lopez-Wagner, Earthjustice (415) 217-2159
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety (202) 547-9359
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network (916) 588-3100
Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity (202) 817-8121
Aimee Simpson, Beyond Pesticides (202) 543-5450 ext. 19
Kathy Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition (202) 421-4544
Shannon Van Hoesen, Environmental Working Group (202) 939-9141
World Trade Organization Rules Against Popular U.S. Country-of-Origin Meat Labels on Which Consumers Rely
Compliance Panel Says U.S. Policy Still Violates WTO Despite Changes Made to Comply With 2012 WTO Order; U.S. Should Not Change COOL Policy
NOTE: Public Citizen will hold a press briefing about this ruling on the morning of Thursday, October 23. Speakers will include Roger Johnson (president, National Farmers Union), Lori Wallach (director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch), Elizabeth J. Drake (partner, Stewart & Stewart), Patrick Woodall (research director, Food & Water Watch) and a representative of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. Stay tuned for the teleconference number and more information.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today’s ruling by a World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance panel against U.S. country-of-origin meat labeling (COOL) policies sets up a no-win dynamic, and the Obama administration should appeal the ruling, Public Citizen said.
If the administration were to weaken COOL, U.S. consumers would lose access to critical information about where their meat comes from at a time when consumer interest in such information is at an all-time high and opposition would only grow to the administration’s beleaguered trade agenda. If the administration again were to seek to comply with the WTO by strengthening COOL, then Mexico and Canada – the two countries that challenged the policy – likely would continue their case, even though cattle imports from Canada have increased since the 2013 strengthening of the policy.
The ruling further complicates the Obama administration’s stalled efforts to obtain Fast Track trade authority for two major agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. Both of these pacts would expose the United States to more such challenges against U.S. consumer, environmental and other policies.
“Many Americans will be shocked that the WTO can order our government to deny U.S. consumers the basic information about where their food comes from and that if the information policy is not gutted, we could face millions in sanctions every year,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Today’s ruling spotlights how these so called ‘trade’ deals are packed with non-trade provisions that threaten our most basic rights, such as even knowing the source and safety of what’s on our dinner plate.”
The WTO compliance panel decided that changes made in May 2013 to the original U.S. COOL policy in an effort to make it comply with a 2012 WTO ruling against the law are not acceptable and that the modified U.S. COOL
policy still constitutes a “technical barrier to trade.” The panel decided that the strengthened COOL policy afforded less favorable treatment to cattle and hog imports from Canada and Mexico, despite a 52 percent increase in U.S. imports of cattle from Canada under the modified policy. The panel stated that the alleged difference in treatment did not “stem exclusively from legitimate regulatory distinctions.”
The United States has one chance to appeal this decision before the WTO issues a final, binding ruling. Under WTO rules, if the U.S. appeal fails, Canada and Mexico would be authorized to impose indefinite trade sanctions against the United States unless or until the U.S. government changes or eliminates the popular labeling policy.
Today’s ruling follows a string of recent WTO rulings against popular U.S. consumer and environmental policies. In May 2012, the WTO ruled against voluntary “dolphin-safe” tuna labels<http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-dolphin-tuna-5-16-12.pdf> that, by allowing consumers to choose to buy tuna caught without dolphin-killing fishing practices, have helped to dramatically reduce dolphin deaths. In April 2012, the WTO ruled against a U.S. ban on clove-, candy- and chocolate-flavored cigarettes <http://www.citizen.org/documents/release-on-wto-cigarette-ruling-4-4-12.pdf>, enacted to curb youth smoking. In each of those cases, U.S. policy changes made to comply with the WTO’s decisions also have been challenged before WTO panels similar to the one that issued today’s ruling.
“The WTO again ruling against a popular U.S. consumer protection will just spur the growing public and congressional concerns about the big Pacific and European trade deals the administration is now pushing and the Fast Track authority to railroad through Congress more agreements that undermine basic consumer rights,” said Wallach.
The COOL policy was created when Congress enacted mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat – supported by 92 percent of the U.S. public<http://www.greenerchoices.org/pdf/ConsumerReportsFoodLabelingSurveyJune2014.pdf> in a recent poll – in the 2008 farm bill. This occurred after 50 years of U.S. government experimentation with voluntary labeling and efforts by U.S. consumer groups to institute a mandatory program.
In their successful challenge of COOL at the WTO, Canada and Mexico claimed that the program violated WTO limits on what sorts of product-related “technical regulations” signatory countries are permitted to enact. The
initial WTO ruling was issued in November 2011. Canada and Mexico demanded that the United States drop its mandatory labels in favor of a return to a voluntary program or standards set by an international food standards body in which numerous international food companies play a central role. Neither option would offer U.S. consumers the same level of information as the current labels. The United States appealed.
The WTO Appellate Body sided with Mexico and Canada in a June 2012 ruling against COOL<http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-wto-rules-against-yet-anohter-consumer-protection-policy-06-29-12.pdf>. The U.S. government responded to the final WTO ruling by altering the policy in a way that fixed the problems identified by the WTO tribunal. However, instead of watering down the popular program as Mexico and Canada sought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture responded with a rule change<http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-USDA-stands-firm-on-COOL-rule.pdf> in May 2013 that strengthened the labeling regime. The new policy provided more country-of-origin information to consumers, which
satisfied the issues raised in the WTO’s ruling. However, Mexico and Canada then challenged the new U.S. policy. With today’s ruling, the WTO has announced its support for the Mexican and Canadian contention that the U.S. law is still not consistent with the WTO rules.
Across the United States, communities are fighting to defend the resources they need to produce food. On this World Food Day, Oakland-based Food First/the Institute for Food & Development Policy and the Netherlands-based Transnational Institute release a report exploring how corporate control of the food system is undermining the livelihoods of farmers, farmworkers, fisherpeople, communities of color, and indigenous peoples in the United States. The report also cites numerous examples of community-based resistance, grassroots solidarity, and broad-based alliances that are resisting the corporate takeover of land and resources.
While a new wave of “land grabbing” has been sweeping the globe, the trend is not confined to poor countries of the Global South, the report argues. In the United States, land and other resources are being concentrated in the hands of new financial and institutional actors—thanks to policies that favor profits over people, and finance over food. The report identifies five cross-cutting themes that affect how land and resource grabs are occurring: labor, race, finance, water, and climate. These areas, the report notes, are also important sites of resistance and potential transformation.
Titled “Land and Resource Grabs in the United States: Five sites of struggle and potential transformation,” the report is authored by Food First researchers Zoe Brent and Tanya Kerssen. It is the seventh issue in Food First’s Land & Sovereignty in the Americas briefs series, which pulls together research and analysis from activists and scholars working to understand and halt the alarming trend in land grabbing—from rural Brazil and Central America to US cities like Oakland and Detroit—and to support communities in their efforts to protect their lands as the basis for self-determination, food justice, and food sovereignty. The series is a project of the Land & Sovereignty in the Americas Activist-Researcher collective, coordinated by Food First.
The full brief is available for free download at: http://foodfirst.org/publication/land-resource-grabs-in-the-united-states/
To learn more about the Land & Sovereignty in the Americas Collective project, visit:http://foodfirst.org/land-and-sovereignty-in-the-americas/
Thousands of dairy farmers in the United State are realizing many of the short-comings of the new margin insurance program (called the Producer Protection Plan) that is being strongly supported by difference experts all across the United States. It has come to light that nearly half of dairy farmer’s costs of operating their dairy farms will not be covered by the new Producer Protection insurance program.
Please read more about the concerns with the Producer Production plan at the Dairybuisiness press release here.
The US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) is honored to name the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) of Palestine, based in Gaza and the West Bank, and Community to Community Development /Comunidad a Comunidad (C2C) of Bellingham, Washington, as co-recipients of the 2014 Food Sovereignty Prize.
Their stories of continuous struggle to defend the rights of their communities – farmers and fishers in the occupied Palestinian territories and migrant Mexican farm workers in Washington State, both seeking to produce their own food, on their own land, in their home communities – stand in stark contrast to the storylines coming from agribusiness: that technological changes to crops can meet human needs and resolve hunger.
Please read about The Food Sovereignty Prize here
The Des Moines Register covered the Event and quotes NFFC Outreach Coordinator Lisa Griffith in their article. Please Read the Des Moines Register article here.
Dena Hoff of NPRC/NFFC/Via Campesina, other NFFC members and NFFC staff were among the multitudes participating in various events at last weekend’s Climate Summit. Kathy Ozer spoke Friday at the Church Center for the United Nations on behalf of the International Day of Peace; Dena Hoff participated in a Saturday workshop panel “Cook Organic, Not the Planet” at St. John’s University, and walked on Sunday walked with Carlos Marentes, Jr., of Via Campesina N.A, Lisa Griffith and other Via representatives in a large contingent of Frontline communities including Indigenous and Immigrant food providers, and populations displaced or otherwise severely affected by climate change. Savi Horne (LLPP), Brett Tolley (NAMA) and many US Food Sovereignty Alliance members were also part of the masses seeking to wake up world leaders about the need for government intervention and corporate inclusion to address climate change.
Please Read this article at Civil Eats which summarizes the messages of the Climate Summit events.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lisa Griffith mobile – (773) 319-5838
Washington, DC (September 24, 2014) - Despite many months of working to the contrary, the National Family Farm Coalition learned last Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had determined that Dow’s Enlist corn and soy were safe for release to the public for planting. Enlist corn and soy have been genetically engineered to resist both glyphosate (or Roundup) and 2,4-D, a component of agent orange used to defoliate Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war. We are extremely disappointed that USDA ignored the concerns of farmers and consumers around these two GMOs that could (and likely will) contaminate fields of non-GMO and organic corn and soy. We are even more disturbed about the likelihood of drift of the pesticides 2,4-D and glyphosate. 2,4-D is especially toxic and volatile. It can drift as a fine mist for miles, destroying non-resistant crops, including fruit, nut and shade trees; grapes, strawberries, melons, tomatoes and beans; and non-GMO and organic varieties of sweet corn and soybeans. There is a huge potential for farmers to lose crops and livelihoods, and consumers and communities to lose access to locally grown foods that define their cuisine and culture.
In addition, more weeds will evolve to resist 2,4-D and glyphosate, encouraging the agrichemical companies to continue engineering crops that tolerate more herbicides. According to the International Survey of Herbicide-Resistant Weeds at weedscience.org, their May 2014 posting indicated that weeds have developed resistance to 155 different herbicides. These herbicide-resistant seeds will cause havoc in their own right. Those falling into non-GMO and organic fields will contaminate those fields, and farmers selling crops from those fields will miss income in the short-term, and could lose their certification in the long-term. This was a significant problem in the Pacific Northwest just last year when genetically engineered wheat was discovered in a field, shutting down markets to Japan and other countries trying to avoid GMOs. The companies that produce the seeds and their herbicides are not currently liable for contamination, which is difficult to prove and further burdens their victims. NFFC is also concerned about the health risks for farmers spraying these herbicides, as well as their families and neighbors. Parkinson’s disease and some cancer are more common in rural farming communities today than 30 years ago, but proving the connections is difficult.
The USDA’s decision on Dow’s corn and soy was released the day after NFFC and several allies offered perspectives on genetically engineered crops to the National Research Council at the National Academies of Science, and a few days before NFFC vice president Dena Hoff spoke in New York at the Climate Justice Summit. Thousands of summit participants marched to raise awareness about the connection between genetically engineered crops, chemical herbicides, environmental damage and climate change. Missouri farmer Margot McMillen, who lost numerous tomato plants to 2,4-D drift this summer, stated earlier this year, “I believe that in every state of the union, there have been accidental plant deaths from 2,4-D spraying. Most will go unreported, because there’s no one keeping track. But if this herbicide overuse continues, I predict it will kill the planet.”
We hope that the Environmental Protection Agency hears our concerns and opposes the release of Dow’s 2,4-D crops. The millions of family farmers, ranchers, workers, fishermen and eaters who will be affected by these herbicide-resistant, genetically modified organisms deserve a voice within our federal government.
NFFC unites and strengthens the voices and actions of its diverse grassroots members to demand viable livelihoods for family farmers, safe and healthy food for everyone, and economically and environmentally sound rural communities.
This week has been a jam packed week here in DC. In addition to the Appropriations process and a few conferences (more on those later), the fifth round of negotiations for the EU-US trade deal (TAFTA, the TransAtlantic Free Trade Agreement, or TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) happened on the George Mason University School of Law campus.
As part of our work through the Citizens Trade Campaign, we participated in a press conference to highlight some of our concerns including the need for transparency, preservation of our safeguards and sovereignty. Here are some photos from the press conference.
Kathy also spoke specifically on food safety and procurement issues. Please read our press release here.
More photos can be found here. We also live tweeted as much as we could from the rally and from the stakeholder day (@FamilyFarmCo #SaveOurSafeguards #ExposeTAFTA #TAFTA). Kathy, along with a number of allies in CTC, presented and took questions from negotiators and industry representatives present.
Based on recent news coverage and statements made during the stakeholder day, it is clear that TAFTA’s momentum is slowing. The harmonization of regulations process was widely discussed. There are concerns the harmonization process will weaken regulations both here and in the EU and create a system, through the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS), that will severely hinder federal, state, and local regulations in the future. The biggest factor affecting TAFTA seems to be the likelihood with which Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, the “new” Fast Track) will pass through Congress. Given the upcoming election cycle, it will either happen before July or not until the lame duck session. If TPA passes, Congress will effectively abdicate it’s constitutional role to control our foreign trade policy and both TAFTA and the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) will be handled exclusively by the Executive Office and the USTR. (If TPA doesn’t pass, TAFTA and TPP will be, more or less, dead in the water.) We still have one final fail safe with TAFTA – each member of the European Union has to agree to it. Given the current political situation in Germany, among other countries, it may become politically impossible for TAFTA to be ratified, restarting the whole process.
We at NFFC are staying up to date on this process and will continue to update here and in our newsletter.
Read our official statement on the Farm Bill released by the Conference Committee last night.