Dow Chemical is currently requesting an unprecedented USDA approval: a genetically engineered (GE) version of corn that is resistant to 2,4-D, a major component of the highly toxic Agent Orange. Agent Orange was the chemical defoliant used by the U.S. in Vietnam, and it caused lasting ecological damage as well as many serious medical conditions in both Vietnam veterans and the Vietnamese.
Exposure to 2,4-D has been linked to major health problems that include cancer (especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), lowered sperm counts, liver disease and Parkinson’s disease. A growing body of evidence from laboratory studies show that 2,4-D causes endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, neurotoxicity and immunosuppression. Further, industry’s own tests show that 2,4-D is contaminated with dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemical compounds that bioaccumulate, so even a minute amount can accumulate as it goes up the food chain, causing dangerous levels of exposure. Dioxins in Agent Orange have been linked to many diseases, including birth defects in children of exposed parents; according to EPA, 2,4-D is the seventh largest source of dioxins in the U.S.
USDA approval of Dow’s GE corn will trigger a big increase in 2,4-D use – and our exposure to this toxic herbicide. Yet USDA has not assessed how much, nor analyzed the resulting impacts on public health, the environment or neighboring farmers (2,4-D is prone to drift and cause damage to nearby crops). Instead, USDA has once again bowed to the pesticide industry, by giving preliminary approval to still another pesticide-promoting crop that will likely harm people and their children, including farmers, and the environment. USDA claims to be adhering to a scientific process, yet the Agency is blatantly ignoring the science on 2,4-D.