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Story at-a-glance -

  • Dow AgroSciences was caught making contradictory claims about its new herbicide, Enlist Duo, to the EPA and the U.S. Patent Office. EPA has temporarily withdrawn approval
  • Investigation reveals EPA scientists changed their analysis of a rat study conducted by Dow, rejecting findings of kidney problems that Dow’s own scientists concluded were caused by the chemical
  • Monsanto will stand trial for “crimes against nature and humanity” on October 16, 2016 (World Food Day), in The Hague, Netherlands

Approval for Toxic Herbicide May Be Rescinded, and GMO Labeling Debate Heats Up Another Notch

December 15, 2015 | 180,690 views

By Dr. Mercola

As glyphosate overuse has led to widespread weed resistance to the chemical, newer, more toxic herbicides have been approved for use on food crops. One such herbicide is Enlist Duo, a combination of glyphosate and 2,4-D, one of the ingredients in Agent Orange.

Enlist Duo is made by Dow AgroSciences, which like Monsanto, sells both genetically engineered seeds and the pesticides they're designed to withstand. And like Monsanto, Dow apparently has few qualms about bending the rules to get their toxic wares to market.

Dow Busted Making Contradictory Claims

As reported by NPR:1

"Dow AgroSciences ... made contradictory claims to different parts of the U.S. government about its latest herbicide. The Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] just found out, and now wants to cancel Dow's legal right to sell the product ...

When Dow applied for permission to sell Enlist Duo in 2011, it told the EPA that this mixture of glyphosate and 2,4-D is no more toxic than the two chemicals are, if considered separately. The EPA accepted that argument and approved the new herbicide just over a year ago ...

Several environmental groups went to court to overturn the EPA decision, arguing that combining these two chemicals could result in new 'synergistic' toxic effects that the EPA had ignored.

And in the course of that litigation, the EPA discovered that Dow had been telling the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office a different story.

When applying for a patent, an inventor needs to show that something is novel and useful. And Dow's patent application for Enlist Duo claims that this mixture of chemicals does, in fact, offer farmers something new: 'synergistic herbicidal weed control.'"

The EPA requested more information from Dow to clarify these "synergistic effects" on non-target plants, and on November 9, the company complied.

The EPA has declined to disclose any details, but have asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals2 to reverse its approval of Enlist Duo pending a full evaluation of this additional information.

EPA Ignored Signs of Health Problems Detected by Dow Scientists

Crazy enough, a breaking story in the Chicago Tribune3 reveals that the EPA is hardly a public hero in this case.

On the contrary, the paper's investigation found that EPA scientists Linda Taylor and Elizabeth Mendez modified their analysis of an animal study conducted by Dow, rejecting findings of kidney problems that Dow's own scientists concluded were due to 2,4-D exposure.

By doing so, the EPA came up with a safety level for 2,4-D that is 41 times higher than previous assessments.

This is a chemical that has been linked to cancer and other health problems, and according to exposure projections, once Enlist Duo becomes widely used American children could consume levels of 2.4-D that a number of different nations consider unsafe, including the World Health Organization, Russia, Korea, Canada, and China.

According to the Tribune:

"The EPA scientists who revised that crucial document were persuaded by a Canadian government toxicologist [Lauri Stachiw] who decided that Dow — a company that has a $1 billion product at stake — had been overly cautious in flagging kidney abnormalities that she deemed insignificant ...

In an interview, Mendez said she and Taylor looked at the data again after Stachiw called. Mendez said they decided the lesions Dow had labeled as toxic effects were actually a healthy response.

'It's a good thing that the kidney is gearing itself up for battle to get rid of the compound from the body,' she said ...

When Dow later published this study, the company's scientists likewise dismissed their earlier concerns and changed the most important measure of the chemical's toxicity so it agreed with the EPA's less stringent view.

These decisions paved the way for the EPA to approve Dow's weedkiller Enlist Duo last year and reassure the public that a surge in 2,4-D use wouldn't hurt anyone."

EPA Recklessly Ignores Precautionary Principle

The EPA is charged with protecting children from harmful pesticides, so to find out that it would flagrantly dismiss hazards revealed (and admitted!) by Dow's own researchers is truly shocking.

Numerous studies have shown that industry-funded research overwhelmingly favors the product and downplays risks; the converse of what this Canadian pesticide regulator — identified as Lauri Stachiw — argued.

Moreover, the Tribune also found that five earlier studies, submitted in the 1980s by an industry group representing Dow and other 2,4-D manufacturers, had similar kidney abnormalities — and at far lower doses than the EPA's latest safety level.

At present, the EPA's safety level for 2,4-D of 7 mg/kg is actually a level at which rats have been shown to suffer multiple effects, including kidney lesions, and changes to their thyroid function and reproductive organs.

Can You Trust EPA's 2,4-D Safety Assessment?

The EPA's reversal of Enlist Duo's approval is guaranteed to be temporary. In fact, The Tribune notes that "EPA officials made it clear they don't intend to bar the product permanently."

The EPA also insists that the reversal has nothing to do with human health risks, and that it just wants to "iron out" concerns that synergistic effects might make the glyphosate-2,4-D mix more toxic than each chemical in isolation.

This will not involve more rigorous research however. The EPA has stated it will not require studies in which rats are chronically dosed with Enlist Duo, meaning the two chemicals in combination.

This decision also defies belief, considering the fact that numerous studies have confirmed that even non-toxic chemicals can become toxic when combined, and here we're dealing with two chemicals known to have toxic influences. In all likelihood, Enlist Duo will gain re-approval; perhaps with a few more safety instructions to protect endangered plants, but that's about it.

I predict this will happen because as far as the EPA is concerned, Enlist Duo is perfectly safe, even if farmers were to use it on every single acre of corn and soybeans growing in the US. The whole thing sounds like a repeat of Monsanto's Roundup debacle.

Before glyphosate was reclassified as a Class 2A "probable carcinogen" earlier this year, Monsanto claimed it was completely biodegradable and safer than table salt. Now Dow and the EPA wants you to believe that 2,4-D in combination with glyphosate is completely safe even if it's in every meal you serve your kids, and even though no safety testing on this exact combination has been conducted.

Only a fool would buy into such assurances. As reported by the Tribune:

"The fact that 2,4-D was a main component of the Vietnam War-era defoliant Agent Orange made the chemical infamous, even though it was dioxin contamination ... that brought harm to troops and villagers. Over the years ... researchers showed 2,4-D was worrisome on its own.

Studies found increased odds of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, hypothyroidism and Parkinson's disease among people who used the chemical as part of their jobs. In June, the WHO's cancer research agency ruled that 2,4-D is a possible carcinogen. But EPA scientists aren't convinced that 2,4-D causes any of those diseases because other studies reached different conclusions."

GE crops like corn and soy add to animal and human health problems, as well as environmental hazards, and the toxic effects of the herbicides used on these crops is part and parcel of the problem. Temporarily delaying Enlist Duo from being doused on our food isn't good enough. It needs to be stopped, and we also need to get genetically engineered organisms (also known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs) labeled. Without labeling, many Americans will continue to buy products they might not buy were they fully informed.

9 in 10 Americans Want to Know If Their Food Is GMO

According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), 80 percent of the foods on your grocery store's shelves contain GMOs4 — which also tend to contain the highest amounts of toxic pesticides — but which ones are they? A December 2015 poll reveals that 9 out of 10 Americans now want to know if their food is genetically engineered. Moreover, 88 percent want that information to be listed on the food label, rather than having to use a smartphone app to find the information.

A mere 16 percent of respondents say they've ever scanned a QR code to get information about a product, and it's simply not a workable method when you have a cart full of food packages to scan through. The poll reveals GMO labeling has majority support from all political parties — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — and even a majority of people who view GMOs favorably want GMO's to be clearly labeled.

As noted in a press release by Just Label It!:5

"The poll, commissioned by a coalition of consumer and environmental groups, comes at a timely moment. In Congress, some lawmakers want to add a provision to the omnibus spending bill that would block states from requiring GMO labels for produce and processed food, as would the so-called DARK Act passed by the House last summer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just approved the sale of genetically engineered salmon – which grows to maturity twice as fast as normal salmon and is cobbled together from the genes of different species – but the FDA will not require the salmon to be labeled."

On November 30, 2015, a broad coalition of more than 290 environmental, farming, and fishing groups, as well as food companies sent a letter6,7 to Congressional leaders, opposing the plan to add a DARK Act Policy Rider to the "must pass" omnibus appropriations bill, which would preempt state laws that require disclosure of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food.

QR Codes Are NOT an Adequate Substitute for Package Labels

"The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act," better known and more appropriately called the DARK Act (Deny Americans Right to Know) prevents states from creating their own food labeling requirements for GMOs, and if passed by the Senate, it would rescind Vermont's labeling law, set to take effect in July 2016.

However, the Senate has been reluctant to pass this bill, and to push it through, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is trying to get the Senate to go along with a "compromise" that involves using QR codes8 instead of labeling genetically engineered (GE) foods. QR stands for Quick Response, and the code can be scanned and read by smart phones and other QR readers.9 The code brings you to a product website that provides further details about the product.

But these so-called "Smart Labels" hardly improve access to information. Instead, by making finding the truth time consuming and cumbersome, food makers can be assured that most Americans will remain ignorant about the presence of GMOs in their products. Besides, everyone has a right to know what's in the food. You shouldn't have to own a smartphone to obtain this information.

Relying on 'Smart Labels' for GMO Information Is Presently Impossible

In a recent blog post,10 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists a total of 10 reasons why the Smart Label proposal can't work and must be rejected. This includes:

  • Consumers Won't Know to Scan – There would be no prompt – like 'scan here for GMO' – on the package, so consumers wouldn't even know that scanning the code would give them more information about their food.
  • GMO Information Hidden – Even if consumers did scan the code, GMO information would be hidden under 'other' information, and the disclosure wouldn't definitively tell consumers what they want to know – whether the food has GMO ingredients. And the Grocery Manufacturers Association admits that Smart Label would have no rules governing what is a 'GMO.'
  • It's Completely Voluntary – Food companies can choose whether or not to include a code on their packages and can drop out of the program at any time. That's crazy.
  • No Enforcement – Not only would Smart Label have no rules, it would have no enforcement. There is no way to know whether the codes would provide accurate information or whether in-store scanners (if there are any) would even work.
  • No Deadlines – Smart Label would set no deadlines for companies to put codes on packages and no deadlines for them to update their data when products are reformulated to include GMO ingredients.

As noted by Lisa Archer, food and technology program director at Friends of the Earth:

"GMO labeling via QR code technology is unworkable, threatens privacy, and is discriminatory since more than a third of Americans, many of which are low-income or live in rural areas with poor internet access, don't own smartphones. FDA's approval of GMO salmon makes it all the more urgent that Congress require mandatory, universally accessible GMO labeling that any consumer can read on the package when they're choosing what to feed their families."

Important Action Item: Speak to Your Senators

If you haven't already done so, I urge you to contact your Senators to tell them that QR codes are NOT a viable substitute for GMO labeling. In fact, QR codes or Smart Labels are inherently discriminatory, since you cannot use them unless you own a smartphone. Thirty-six percent of Americans do not own one.11 Moreover, only half of low income people and those living in rural areas own a smartphone.

The DARK Act12,13,14,15 preempts state rights and violates individual rights, and as such must not pass. Implementing QR codes does not change that. Democrats from agricultural states in particular need to be reminded about the President's executive order on preemption of state rights and standing up for the rights of consumers. As noted in a 2009 article by the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies:16

"On May 20, 2009, President Obama issued a Memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies on preemption. The purpose of that Memorandum was to declare the new Administration's 'general policy' to be that 'preemption of State law by executive departments and agencies should be undertaken only with full consideration of the legitimate prerogatives of the States and with a sufficient legal basis for preemption.'

The President explained that, even though the Federal Government's role in promoting the general welfare is 'critical,' the States play a concurrent and often more aggressive role in protecting the health and safety of their citizens and the environment. He stated that overreaching by the Federal Government with respect to preemption limits the ability of the States to 'apply to themselves rules and principles that reflect the[ir own particular] circumstances and values ...'

The President's Memorandum discouraging regulatory preemption comes against a backdrop of calls from Congress and others for increased regulation in a variety of areas. If put into law, market participants will have to shoulder greater regulatory burdens, but they will not receive immunity from state court lawsuits by doing so unless Congress provides for such immunity."

You can also find your Senators' contact information by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. A phone call has greater impact than an email, but a face-to-face meeting is usually the most impactful of all. In addition to contacting the two Senators representing your state, you can also sign the Food Democracy Now!'s petition, addressed to members of Congress, the FDA, and the President Obama.

Monsanto to Stand Trial for Crimes Against Humanity

While American politicians are all too eager to succumb to Monsanto's monstrous plans, dozens of food, farming, and environmental justice groups have announced they will put Monsanto on trial for "crimes against nature and humanity" on October 16, 2016 (which happens to be World Food Day), in The Hague, Netherlands.

As reported by Sustainable Pulse:17

"Relying on the 'Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights' adopted by the UN in 2011, an international court of lawyers and judges will assess the potential criminal liability of Monsanto for damages inflicted on human health and the environment.

The court will also rely on the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2002, and it will consider whether to reform international criminal law to include crimes against the environment, or ecocide, as a prosecutable criminal offense ...

Andre Leu, president of IFOAM and a member of the RI Steering Committee, said: 'Monsanto is able to ignore the human and environmental damage caused by its products, and maintain its devastating activities through a strategy of systemic concealment: by lobbying regulatory agencies and governments, by resorting to lying and corruption, by financing fraudulent scientific studies, by pressuring independent scientists, and by manipulating the press and media.

Monsanto's history reads like a text-book case of impunity, benefiting transnational corporations and their executives, whose activities contribute to climate and biosphere crises and threaten the safety of the planet."

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