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.