A coalition of more than 2,000 U.S. farmers and food companies said Wednesday it is taking legal action to force government regulators to analyze potential problems with proposed biotech crops and the weed-killing chemicals to be sprayed over them.
Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical, and Monsanto Co. are among several global chemical and seed companies racing to roll out combinations of genetically altered crops and new herbicides designed to work with the crops as a way to counter rapidly spreading herbicide-resistant weeds that are choking millions of acres of U.S. farmland.
Dow and Monsanto say the new chemical combinations and new crops that tolerate those chemicals are badly needed by corn, soybean and cotton farmers as weeds increasingly resist treatments of the most commonly used herbicide – glyphosate-based Roundup.
“They (farmers) need this new technology,” said Dow AgroScience Joe Vertin, global business leader for Dow’s new herbicide-protected crops called “Enlist.”
But critics say key ingredients in these new herbicides – 2,4-D for Dow and dicamba for Monsanto – already are in use in the marketplace and have proved damaging to “non-target” fields because they are hard to keep on target. Wind, heat and humidity can move the chemical particles miles down the road, damaging gardens, crops, trees. Many farms have suffered significant damage in recent years even though the chemicals are currently sprayed under tight restrictions.
“These are the most dangerous chemicals out there,” said John Bode, a Washington lawyer hired by the Save Our Crops Coalition. Bode served as assistant Secretary of Agriculture in the Reagan administration.
Unlike many other protestors of new biotech crops, the coalition comprises many grower groups that use and support biotechnology. This is not a biotech complaint, they say, but one focused on the danger of the chemicals to be used with the biocrops.
“The danger that 2,4-D and dicamba pose is a real threat to crops…nearly every food crop,” said Steve Smith, director of agriculture at Red Gold, the world’s largest canned tomato processor, and a leader of the Save Our Crops Coalition.
The coalition represents more than 2,000 farmers and groups such as the Indiana Vegetable Growers Association, the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association, and major food processors Seneca and Red Gold.
Over the last four years, more than $1 million in damages have been filed in lawsuits and insurance claims by Midwestern growers who have suffered crop losses due to 2,4-D and dicamba that has drifted onto their farms, Smith said.