Industrial agriculture has a big problem, and its proposed solution will put thousands of home gardens, vineyards and vegetable farms at risk.
As was predicted, weeds have evolved to be resistant to Roundup, Monsanto’s broad-spectrum herbicide, thereby reducing the yields of widely grown genetically engineered (GE) Roundup-Ready crops most farmers are now dependent upon. So Dow AgroSciences has developed a genetically modified corn, Enlist, that can tolerate the herbicide 2,4-D (Dicholorophenoxyacetic acid), familiar to many as a component in Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War. Monsanto and other companies are working on their own versions of 2,4-D-tolerant crops.
But the problem is, 2,4-D doesn’t stay where it’s sprayed. It vaporizes and drifts on the wind, and has a long history of damaging neighboring crops and home gardens. It is also considered highly toxic to honeybees and has been linked to human health problems ranging from cancer to endocrine disruption, immunosuppression and more.
Last April, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw 2,4-D’s registration, but the agency denied the petition. Now, if the U.S. Department of Agriculture approves the switch to Enlist GE corn and other 2,4-D-immune seeds, it will mean certain damage to home gardens and organic farms. MOTHER will report more about this issue later this year, but meanwhile, the more letters opposing increased use of 2,4-D that reach Congress, the EPA and the USDA, the better. To read more about this issue, see EPA Denies an Environmental Group’s Request to Ban a Widely Used Weed Killer from The New York Times.
Robin Mather is a senior associate editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS and the author of The Feast Nearby, a collection of essays and recipes from her year of eating locally on $40 a week. In her spare time, she is a hand-spinner, knitter, weaver, homebrewer, cheese maker and avid cook who cures her own bacon. Find her on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.