A POTENTIALLY dangerous new product, Enlist Duo, from Dow Chemical, might actually undergo the scrutiny it deserves, now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asked the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to abandon its approval of the herbicide.
New information that the EPA discovered in a review of Dow’s patent application for Enlist Duo -- which Dow seems to have conveniently omitted in its application to gain the agency’s initial approval -- suggests that the weedkiller may be more toxic to endangered plants and animals than initially thought.
With the proliferation of GMO crops, and the increased use of agrochemicals these plants are developed to withstand, farmers in the U.S. are now faced with the propagation of “superweeds,” fast-growing weeds that have developed defenses against cancer-causing glyphosate, the main chemical in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. To combat these superweeds, Dow Chemical created Enlist Duo, which is made of glyphosate mixed with a new version of 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), a decades-old chemical that was an ingredient in Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War.
The EPA has now discovered that the new herbicide may have synergistic toxic effects, as stated in Dow’s patent application for the chemical mixture. Yet, in its application with the EPA filed in 2011, Dow stated that Enlist Duo is no more toxic than if glyphosate or 2,4-D were used separately. These contradictory claims have let to the EPA now asking more questions regarding the safely of the new herbicide.
Enlist Duo was approved by the EPA for sale in 15 states, a decision that was challenged by several environmental advocacy groups including the Pesticide Action Network, the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity. These groups believe that the new herbicide is a potentially significant threat to endangered plants and animals. Now, the EPA has abandoned its original decision and states that farmers may need to follow more-stringent guidelines to protect plants nearby crop fields. It has asked the court to revoke its approval as it reviews what it calls “extensive information” provided by Dow to explain the synergistic effects of its new product.
The appellate court will finalize the reversal once it receives a formal response from Dow Chemical. Dow is still planning for Enlist Duo herbicide to be available for sale for the 2016 U.S. growing season.