Dow Weed Killer Sparks Controversy

A controversial new genetically engineered corn strain, manufactured by Dow, is being challenged by a coalition of food safety advocates and organic farmers who argue that its use will threaten human health.

The crop in question is a 2, 4-D resistant strain of corn. 2, 4-D is a powerful herbicide that many farmers say is necessary to control increasingly resistant strains of weeds. For the past ten years, Roundup, an herbicide produced by Monsanto, has been the preferred weed killer for American farmers, particularly in light of the development of Roundup resistant crops. However, many farmers are reporting that weeds have begun developing a resistance to Roundup, requiring the use of stronger chemicals.

Dow Chemical appears to have solved this resistance by engineering a strain of corn that is resistant to 2, 4-D, a more powerful herbicide, allowing farmers to kill out of control weeds without damaging crops.

With the new corn crop on the verge of approval, food safety groups and organic farmers are lobbying Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency to block the approval of the new strains and to limit the use of 2, 4-D. Food safety groups argue that 2, 4-D is carcinogenic, claiming that it was found in the controversial Vietnam War era defoliant Agent Orange. The EPA, however, claims that repeated scientific tests have not proven 2, 4-D to be carcinogenic and that other ingredients in Agent Orange, primarily the long-banned 2,4,5,-T, were responsible for its health effects.

Organic farmers and fruit and vegetable farmers, however, are concerned that the herbicide could damage their crops. Fruits and vegetables that are not resistant to 2, 4-D could get caught in the herbicide’s crossfire, with herbicide drift carrying the chemical in the air for miles. One Lowell, Indiana farmer has already reported damage to his vegetables because of 2, 4-D spraying nearly 2 miles away from his farm.

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