In a long overdue effort, the U.S. is currently spending millions of dollars to help the Vietnamese clean up the tragic legacy of our use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The effort to remove the remaining contamination caused by the toxic mix of herbicides is expected to be completed in the next few years.
Agent Orange was primarily manufactured by Dow Chemical and Monsanto, and these two companies are at it again. This time, they've teamed up to unleash a mixture of their chemical herbicides on the American farmland. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently gave Dow Chemical approval to manufacture and sell next generation, genetically engineered (GE) corn and soy that can withstand massive dosing of the herbicide 2,4-D. The gene altered crops are also resistant to Monsanto's glyphosate herbicide, Roundup. The new combined GE crop systems are given the appropriately military name "Enlist Duo."
We know what the coupling of Dow and Monsanto did to Vietnam, but what will it mean for America? Well, currently, because of Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" GE crops we have used over 500 million more pounds of herbicide since their introduction. USDA now says that the approval of Dow Chemical's "Agent Orange" crops will increase the use of 2,4-D up to seven times. That's as much as 176 million more pounds of toxic 2,4-D sprayed on our crops each year.
We already know that Roundup can be incredibly deadly to certain aquatic organisms and can lead to organ damage in lab animals, but what about its new partner 2,4-D? As 2,4-D was an element in Agent Orange, it should come as no surprise that 2,4-D is even more toxic than Roundup. 2,4-D has been linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, lowered sperm counts, liver disease, and Parkinson's disease. Studies have also demonstrated the chemical's adverse effects on hormonal, reproductive, neurological, and immune systems. 2,4-D is the seventh largest source of dioxins in our environment. Dioxins are highly toxic chemical byproducts that can bioaccumulate, which means they can build up in our system and our environment, over time.
The Obama administration was well aware of the dangers of approving the toxic combination of two deadly herbicides. In fact, 50 Members of Congress, dozens of scientists and health care professionals, and over a million and a half Americans wrote to the White House, USDA, and EPA demanding they deny Dow Chemical's application. Center for Food Safety raised numerous environmental, socioeconomic, and human health concerns with both USDA and EPA at every opportunity for public comment, submitting hundreds of pages of detailed scientific analysis and supporting studies. Yet the administration and its agencies ignored the science, the concerns of Congress and the clear will of the American people.
What could the Obama administration be thinking? Follow the money. Dow Chemical's 2013 net sales exceeded $57 billion according to their 2013 annual report. Monsanto made almost $15 billion last year. And these companies don't hesitate to throw their financial weight around the halls of government. During the 2014 election cycle, Dow Chemical spent over $20,000,000 lobbying, giving almost one million dollars directly to political campaigns. During the same period, Monsanto spent almost $10,000,000 in lobbying. (Source: OpenSecrets.org)
In a legal and political environment where money talks louder than ever, this massive spending has done its job. In approving "Agent Orange" crops and promoting Roundup Ready crops, the EPA and USDA have bowed to the profit needs of Monsanto and Dow. It is a major scandal that they appear to care more about the bottom line of these companies than the protection of our food, public health, and the environment, which they are supposed to be safeguarding.
However, we are not powerless. For many years, Center for Food Safety has spearheaded the opposition to this proposed approval through grassroots, scientific, and policy campaigns. We have now taken the fight to another playing field by filing a federal lawsuit on behalf of a broad coalition of farmers, environmental, and consumer groups to reverse this unconscionable decision and halt the sale of these dangerous crops.
The food movement has won these battles before. Through market pressure, farmer opposition, and legal actions over the last decade, we have halted the commercialization of many potentially hazardous GE crops including: GE tomatoes, potatoes, Roundup Ready wheat, herbicide-resistant rice, GE bentgrass, and so called biopharmceutical GE crops, among other victories. We can prevail again, and we must if we are to avoid another toxic tragedy brought to us by Dow Chemical and Monsanto.