New, More Toxic Breed of Genetically Engineered Crops Gain Approval

Story at-a-glance

  • The widespread use of genetically engineered crops has led to chemical resistance among weeds and insects alike. Weed resistance has been documented on 60 million farm acres across the US
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently deregulated Dow Chemical’s next-generation GE crops, which are resistant to both glyphosate and 2,4-D—a component of Agent Orange
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also approved Enlist Duo—a new herbicide to be used on Dow’s 2,4-D and glyphosate-resistant corn and soybeans
  • In response to the US government’s failure to protect the American public, the Center for Food Safety has announced it will “pursue all available legal options to stop the commercialization of these dangerous crops”


This is an older article that may not reflect Dr. Mercola’s current view on this topic. Use our search engine to find Dr. Mercola’s latest position on any health topic.

By Dr. Mercola

Two major categories of genetically engineered (GE) seeds currently account for 99 percent of all acreage dedicated to GE crops in the US:

  1. Those engineered to withstand high amounts of herbicide, such as Monsanto's Roundup-Ready varieties
  2. Those engineered to produce their own internal insecticide (so-called Bt crops)

The widespread use of these GE crops has led to chemical resistance among weeds and insects alike, despite initial assurances from the chemical technology industry that such an outcome was highly unlikely.

Well, the results are now too evident to ignore—weed resistance has been documented on 60 million acres on farms across the US, and Bt resistant rootworm is being reported in the US and Brazil.

As GE seeds became the norm, chemical resistance rapidly emerged. As a result, farmers have been applying increasingly higher amounts of pesticides in an effort to keep up with rising resistance.

The United States now uses about 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides each year,1, 2 and mounting research has linked pesticides to an array of serious health problems. What we need is not a new breed of chemical-resistant crops, but that's exactly what we're getting...

Even More Toxic GE Crops and Herbicide Receive Approval

Instead of taking a proactive approach to save the environment and human life, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently decided to deregulate Dow Chemical's next-generation GE crops.

These crops are not only resistant to glyphosate, but also carry resistance to toxins like 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange, and Dicamba, which has been linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The chemical 2,4-D and other herbicides of this class have also been linked to:

  • Immune system cancers
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Reproductive problems

Then, on October 15, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced3 its final decision to register Enlist Duo—a new herbicide manufactured by Dow Chemical, to be used on corn and soybeans genetically engineered  to tolerate both 2,4-D and glyphosate.

This was the final barrier standing between this new generation of GE crops and their widespread commercialization. According to the EPA:4

"The agency's decision reflects a large body of science and an understanding of the risk of pesticides to human health and the environment... EPA scientists used highly conservative and protective assumptions to evaluate human health and ecological risks for the new uses of 2,4-D in Enlist Duo.

The assessments confirm that these uses meet the safety standards for pesticide registration and, as approved, will be protective of the public, agricultural workers, and non-target species, including endangered species.

The agency evaluated the risks to all age groups, from infants to the elderly, and took into account exposures through food, water, pesticide drift, and as a result of use around homes. The decision meets the rigorous Food Quality Protection Act standard of 'reasonable certainty of no harm' to human health."

EPA Thinks a Few Restrictions Will Safeguard Against Resistance...

To "ensure that weeds will not become resistant to 2,4-D," the approval of Enlist Duo comes with certain restrictions. For example, Dow is required to search for resistant weeds and report any occurrences of resistance to the EPA.

Farmer education and remediation plans are also part of these additional requirements that must be met. To prevent drift, farmers will not be permitted to spray Enlist Duo from the air, or apply it when the wind speed exceeds 15 miles per hour.

Farmers must also leave a 30-foot "no spray buffer zone" around treated crops.  The registration is set to expire in six years, at which time the EPA will evaluate the emergence of resistance.

I do not believe in these assurances of safety. Nor do I think adding a different set of toxins to the growers' mix will ameliorate resistance. Instead, what we'll end up with is simply an increasingly toxic food supply and further environmental destruction. As noted by Pesticide Action Network:5

"USDA predicts 2,4-D use in corn and soybean production to increase between 500 percent and 1,400 percent over the course of nine years, depending on farmers' practices and changes in Dow's share of corn and soybean seed markets.

In making this decision, EPA officials failed to consider several important health and safety factors.

By ignoring the potential synergistic effects of 2,4-D and glyphosate, not addressing the cumulative impacts of the expected increase in 2,4-D use, and failing to implement an appropriate 10-fold safety factor to limit exposures — as required under the Food Quality Protection Act — EPA has given Enlist Duo an unjustified approval, based on a flawed and inadequate review of the chemical's harms.

In addition, neither USDA nor EPA have looked at the economic impact that Enlist Duo drift will have on surrounding farms and communities." [Emphasis mine]

Center for Food Safety also cites a 2012 study published in the journal Bioscience, which concluded that this new generation of GE crops "will trigger still more intractable weeds resistant to both glyphosate and 2,4-D."  

We Need a New Direction, Not More Toxins

A lot of harm can be done in six years, and we simply don't have the time to sit back and wait to see how bad it can get. Just how bad does it have to get before our government starts taking these problems seriously?

What we need is a whole new direction for our agricultural system. We need a system that is NOT reliant on synthetic chemicals—one that is not only sustainable, but also regenerative.

Toxic chemicals form the very basis of GE agriculture. Chemicals are added into the soil, on the seed, on the plant, and on some crops herbicides are also added right at harvest, to increase seed release. This technique is called desiccating.

For example, desiccating non-organic wheat crops with glyphosate just before harvest came in vogue about 15 years ago, and Dr. Stephanie Seneff suspects this practice may be the reason why we've seen such a dramatic increase in celiac disease since then... It's important to realize that agriculture today is not driven by true agricultural companies. Patented seeds are actually a creation of the pesticide industry. While they try to portray themselves as "biotechnology" companies, they're really chemical technology companies, and they have no financial incentive whatsoever to discontinue or even reduce the use of toxic chemicals.

Research Bias Is a Direct Threat to Human Health 

As for the "large body of science" the EPA claims to base its foolhardy decision on, it's worth noting that the vast majority of this research has major conflicts of interest as it is done by the company selling the chemicals. This fact was directly addressed in a January 2014 report6 on 2,4-D, jointly published by Testbiotech, GeneWatch UK and Pesticides Action Network Europe:

"Many of the publications are authored by the manufacturers' scientists or are sponsored by the manufacturers of 2,4-D. This leads to large confusion, because on the one hand these papers are scientific, peer reviewed papers, but on the other hand, it can be assumed that the financial interest leads to a bias towards studies showing no negative effects. A recent study by Diels et al. (2011) has shown that in studies with genetically engineered crops, there is a strong relation between funding and outcome.

Some industry financed publications leave out important information, for example Ross et al. (2005), who do not mention results which show a high dermal uptake of 2,4-D... Basically, the industry funded/authored studies lead to a 'dilution' of information—a tactic also applied by the tobacco industry. The parallels between the tobacco industry and the pesticide industry are manifold, not only in their argumentation and strategy, but also in the final results – despite the evidence - cancer causing agents are not prohibited."

All Available Legal Options Will Be Pursued to Stop These Dangerous Crops

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network, has called the lack of protection from the EPA and USDA "shocking," saying:7 "It's time for real reform in these agencies. We need a new system of government oversight that is powerful enough to say 'No' to Dow and Monsanto when their products will harm the health and livelihoods of our farmers and rural communities."

In response to the USDA's and EPA's complete failure to protect the American public against the growing threat of a toxic food supply and devastating pest resistance that could decimate our natural resources, the Center for Food Safety has announced8 it will "pursue all available legal options to stop the commercialization of these dangerous crops." Sixty members of Congress have signed a letter opposing the approval and release of 2,4-D tolerant corn and soybeans. On June 30, 35 prominent doctors, scientists, and researchers also issued a letter of opposition to the EPA.9 According to Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR):10

"For years, the scientific community has been sounding the alarm about the increased use of herbicides and the link to a multitude of health problems. It's shocking that EPA thinks it's a good idea to allow the widespread use of a toxic chemical once found in Agent Orange on this nation's farm fields.  EPA should be working to reverse the trend of chemicals that poison our food supply, water and soil. It will be just a matter of time before weeds develop a resistance to 2,4-D, and the chemical industry comes up with an even more dangerous and potent product."

Indeed, there's already a lineup of new GE crops with built-in resistance to a variety of toxic chemicals awaiting federal approval (below). In addition to 2,4-D and Dicamba, each and every one of these will eventually cause resistance. And more than likely, we'll end up seeing multi-chemical resistance, just as we now have antibiotic-resistant bacteria with multiple-drug resistance:

  • ALS-tolerant crops (Pioneer Hi-Bred)
  • Bromoxynil-tolerant crops (Calgene)
  • Imidazolinone-tolerant crops (BASF)
  • Isoxaflutole-tolerant crops (Bayer)
  • Sulfonylurea-tolerant crops (DuPont)

The Way Out of This Nightmare Starts at Home

The way off this out-of-control chemical treadmill will decimate profits for the chemical technology industry, and THAT is why they do not want you to know which foods contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). If Americans started making dramatically different food choices, it could quickly revolutionize the US agricultural system because farmers will grow that which sells. If people want uncontaminated organic foods, that's what farmers will grow—and there's already evidence that biodynamic farming can be done even on the large scale. In fact, using biodynamic principles, you can grow a lot more food on fewer acres.

Real solutions are available. What's lacking is the political will to stand up to the chemical technology industry and break its iron grip on our food supply. But we can still get it done, by making conscious choices each and every time we shop for food. Remember, your money either goes to support the chemical-based system that threatens the survival of the earth and your descendants, or it supports a system that can regenerate and revitalize the soil and the environment so that healthy food and healthy people can thrive. To make conscious choices, we need information, and that is why GMO labeling is so crucial.


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