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USDA gives the go-ahead to 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans

Genetically modified corn and beans that are resistant to several herbicides including 2,4-D are a step closer to being planted in a field near you after a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday.

The USDA issued a final environmental impact statement on the new genetically modified technology, called Enlist and made by Dow, that would allow farmers to use 2,4-D and dicamba for weed control on corn and soybeans. An increasing number of farmers are struggling with weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate (RoundUp).

Dakotafire wrote about new technology, and its potential to affect neighboring fields and gardens, here [1].

This decision is not a surprise, as the USDA only looked at the technology itself, which is in the plant. Critics of the technology were concerned about the potential increased use of 2,4-D and dicamba, which was not examined by the USDA. Both herbicides can be volatile, meaning they have a tendency to turn to vapor, which can result in them traveling far from where they were applied. (See more discussion of this issue in the previous story [1].)

The final step in the USDA review process is for the department to issue a Record of Decision, which is expected soon, a Dow representative noted in a press release.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency is still reviewing the technology for possible risks to human health and the environment. Public comment on the technology was gathered in May and June, and the agency expects to make its decision in late summer or early fall.

From an explanation published on the EPA website [2], the agency seems likely to approve the technology but with close monitoring and potential restrictions:

To ensure that Enlist Duo successfully manages weed resistance problems, the proposal would impose requirements on the manufacturer including robust monitoring and reporting to EPA, grower education and remediation and would allow EPA to take swift action to impose additional restrictions on the manufacturer and the use of the pesticide if resistance develops.”