(NaturalNews) Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, is seeking permission to spray a toxic Agent Orange ingredient across agricultural fields within blocks of thousands of U.S. schools, a report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has warned.
"[H]undreds of thousands of children across the country will be at risk of increased exposure to the harmful chemical compound 2,4-D if the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] approves a new weed killer mixture called 'Enlist DuoTM,'" the report says.
Thousands of schools to be affected
Dow currently has two applications pending with the EPA: for a new herbicide called Enlist Duo, and for corn and soy genetically modified (GM) to be resistant to that herbicide.
Enlist Duo is composed of the popular herbicide glyphosate (originally marketed by Monsanto under the trade name "Roundup") and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, known as 2,4-D. It is designed to kill even weeds that have evolved resistance to glyphosate.
Environmental and health advocates are concerned that the approval of the Enlist-resistant crops would cause the use of the herbicide to increase dramatically, as occurred with Roundup.
"If the EPA approves Enlist[R] Duo and if the USDA allows the unregulated use of 2,4-D-resistant GE crops, nationwide use of 2,4-D could more than triple by 2020," another EWG report notes.
2,4-D is particularly susceptible to spreading beyond agricultural fields, as it can transform into a gas after being sprayed and drift for long distances.
"Communities near 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybean fields would be exposed to eight times more 2,4-D than is now the case, according to the USDA, and even greater amounts, according to independent estimates. Americans' exposure to this toxic herbicide would soar."
The report counts 5,609 schools found within just 200 feet of fields that would "soon [be] blanketed with massive amounts" of Enlist Duo. A map showing the number of schools by county can be seen here: API.Tiles.MapBox.com.
Health advocates have reason to be concerned. Roundup has been linked to serious toxicological symptoms in humans and other animals, and 2,4-D is notorious in its own right.
2,4-D comprised approximately 50 percent of the notorious Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange, also manufactured by Dow. And while some of the health effects of Agent Orange have been linked to the other chemical in the mix, studies have linked 2,4-D specifically to health problems including cancer, reproductive problems, suppressed immune function, Parkinson's disease and hypothyroidism.
Herbicides + GM crops = superweeds
In addition to being dangerous, Enlist and Enlist-resistant crops are unlikely to even solve the problem that they are being promoted for. Indeed, they are likely to make it worse.
Roundup-resistant weeds are a growing problem in all countries that grow GM crops, and scientists agree that this is no coincidence. Indeed, widespread adoption of crops engineered for resistance to glyphosate led farmers to dramatically increase their use of the herbicide, thereby driving the evolution of more glyphosate-resistant superweeds.
A June 12 editorial published in the journal Nature warned that the adoption of further herbicide-resistant GM crops is likely to worsen the problem. The authors note that, when Roundup-resistant crops were first adopted, many GM advocates claimed that it would be almost impossible for weeds to also become Roundup-resistant.
"This is part of a growing problem, an escalating chemical arms race going on across America's heartland," wrote the Center for Food Safety at DOW-Watch.org. "Dow Chemical is hyping GE 2,4-D corn and soy as the solution to resistant weeds, but GE crop systems caused the 'superweeds' in the first place. Like Roundup before it, 2,4-D is only a temporary solution that will require more and more toxic chemicals leaching into our environment and food supply."