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USDA Moves to Approve "Agent Orange" GMO Seeds

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

The US Department of Agriculture is leaning toward approving varieties of corn and soybean seeds that are genetically engineered to be resistant to several herbicides, including the controversial chemical known as 2,4-D.

Dow Chemical developed the genetically engineered seeds with the brand name Enlist to address the growing problem of "superweeds" that have become resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Roundup is widely used on genetically engineered crops, which are also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Dow claims that Enlist seeds will give farmers an important tool to fight weeds, but pesticide critics and independent researchers say that 2,4-D is linked to health problems. Fighting resistant weeds with tougher chemicals, critics say, is not a sustainable solution to the challenges of modern agriculture.

Just before the start of the weekend January 3, 2014, the USDA released a draft environmental impact statement on the genetically engineered corn and soy seeds, which have been under a strict review since 2011 because of pressure from organic farmers and activists who are concerned about widespread use of 2,4-D. The USDA found that the GMO seeds do not pose a "plant pest risk," and the agency is expected to approve the seeds for general use.     

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which regulates pesticides, is also reviewing the proposal to inject crops resistant to 2,4-D into the agricultural system. GMO crops such as the Enlist seeds are genetically engineered to resist pesticides marketed by the companies that develop them, allowing farmers to spay entire fields with patented herbicides that kill only weeds and non-GMO plants. In the coming months, the EPA will announce its decision in coordination the USDA.