On Wednesday, in a quiet but profound decision to approve a dangerous weed killer, the EPA chose the rights of Dow Chemical Co. and the biotech lobby over those of the American people, particularly our children. While the decision will now be litigated, our real hope as citizens to protect ourselves from such potentially carcinogenic herbicides is to get our government to approve mandatory federal labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.
Explaining the connection requires that I get down into the, um, weeds.
The EPA approved the herbicide Enlist Duo to kill weeds in corn and soybean fields. In the months leading up to the decision, more than 500,000 citizens, 50 congress-people and dozens of eminent physicians, weed scientists and public health experts had urged the EPA not to approve Enlist.
Enlist Duo is the combination of two different chemicals, glyphosate and the even more toxic 2,4-D, created by Dow AgroSciences to be used in tandem with their genetically engineered Enlist Duo seeds, which have been genetically engineered to resist this herbicide. The addition of 2,4-D to this mixture is cause for alarm as exposure to this chemical has been scientifically linked to some serious diseases including Parkinson's and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
When the EPA analyzed the risks of Enlist Duo, they failed to apply an additional 10X safety factor as mandated under the federal Food Quality Protection Act, whenever children are shown to be more at risk than adults. Children are especially vulnerable to the health risks associated with 2,4-D because they absorb more of the pesticide relative to body weight than do adults. Dr. Phillip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine has said that "exposures to herbicides in early life can lead to disease in childhood or disease later on in adult life or even old age. Herbicide chemicals can also cross from mother to child during pregnancy and prenatal exposures that occur during the nine months of pregnancy are especially dangerous."
Dow denies that Enlist Duo will affect children, saying it will drift only 200 feet from fields. But, the Environmental Working Group has identified nearly 500 US elementary schools within 200 feet of a corn or soybean field that could soon be sprayed with this toxic pesticide cocktail. This means that thousands of children could soon be breathing, drinking and ingesting a likely carcinogen. And in case Dow is wrong and Enlist drifts 1,000 feet, as other formulations are know to do, the number of schools jumps to nearly 5,000, and tens of thousands of school children in the drift zones.