Not too long ago, the federal government proposed eliminating restrictions on the use of corn and soybean seeds that are genetically engineered to resist a weed killer known as known as 2,4-D. These seeds, developed by Dow AgroSciences, purport to allow farmers to use this powerful weed killer without harming the crops. These seeds have already been cleared in Canada, but they are not yet for sale. However, scientists and environmentalists worry that the seeds and 2,4-D could have unintended consequences. In fact, some have dubbed the seeds “Agent Orange Corn” in an attempt to stigmatize 2,4-D and the seeds resistant to it.
The chemical 2,4-D was, in fact, one of the main ingredients in Agent Orange. Undoubtedy, seeds that are genetically modified to resist 2,4-D will increase its use by farmers. But is it something that is potentially dangerous to our health or the environment? The answer, according to a recent Forbes.com article, is ‘no.’ While 2,4-D was an ingredient of Agent Orange, it wasn’t what made the chemical so dangerous. The culprit was a second herbicide ingredient known as 2,4,5-T. According to the Forbes.com article:
The Environmental Protection Agency has evaluated 2,4-D numerous times under increasingly stringent risk assessment evaluations and consistently found the comparatively mild herbicide safe. The Oregon State University and EPA-backed National Pesticide Information Center thoroughly reviewed the chemical and found it safe its proposed uses.
Environmentalists are also concerned that over herbicides can lead to the development of “superweeds,” which in turn will require more use of herbicides. Indeed, herbicide resistance is already a problem for farmers using glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup). However, proponents of 2,4-D claim that the product can actually decrease herbicide resistance since it will give framers another option to rotate when spraying for weeds.
While there might be more research needed to evaluate these new genetically modified seeds and the use of 2,4-D, it certainly sounds like the “Agent Orange” tag is nothing more than rhetoric.