(NaturalNews) Federal regulators with the Environmental Protection Agency have denied a request from the state of Texas to permit its farmers to use a very powerful and dangerous herbicide against invasive "superweeds" that are threatening to overtake cotton crops.
EPA officials cited added risks to drinking water and additional hazards in refusing a request from state officials to permit farmers to use Milo-Pro, an herbicide which includes the chemical propazine, "a restricted product that requires a license to purchase and use," The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
As the paper further reported:
Texas had asked the EPA for an exemption that would have permitted use of the pesticide on up to 3 million acres--roughly half the state's land planted with cotton this year--to combat palmer amaranth, or pigweed, a fast-growing weed that can grow 3 inches a day and has developed a resistance to widely used chemicals.
A spokesman with the Texas Department of Agriculture, the state agency that originally made the request, said the department was "very disappointed" by the EPA's ruling.
"Once again, members of the current administration have turned their back on the hard-working farmers of Texas," said the spokesman, Bryan Black.
One bad situation exacerbated by bad chemicals
The EPA acknowledged in its decision that the situation faced by Texas farmers "does meet the criteria for an emergency."
One of the growing number of invasive plants that have developed the ability to withstand the most common pesticides, like glyphosate -- the primary chemical in Monsanto's Roundup -- is pigweed. Numerous farmers have relied heavily on glyphosate over the past 15 years, and that's a big part of the problem: Such over-reliance has exacerbated the problem of resistance in weeds, especially among plants like pigweed that are capable of producing as many as 1 million seeds apiece, researchers have said.
In order to keep such superweeds at bay as they advance across the southern U.S. and in the Plains states, farmers are using a broader collection of herbicides, unfortunately, which not only further poisons the land and the water table but also adds to the costs of producing crops. Environmental groups that fear the effects on water supplies, soil health and neighboring crops have been sounding the alarm.
At present, the EPA permits farmers to apply Milo-Pro to their crops, a compound produced by Iowa-based Albaugh Inc., to sorghum crops in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas, the company says.
As readers of Natural News might imagine, Texas' request drew complaints from environmental organizations, including the Center for Food Safety, which warned about risks to human health. Propazine has long been identified by the EPA and private organizations as a potential human carcinogen that is closely related to atrazine, a weed killer used by scores of corn growers which is banned by the European Union. They have also pointed to studies indicating that atrazine hampers the sexual reproduction of frogs and otherwise poses problems to human hormone activities.
"Based on an assessment consistent with EPA's legal responsibilities, drinking water estimates suggest that risks from drinking water alone may lead to unacceptable risks in some cases," wrote Jack Housenger, the EPA's director of the office of pesticide programs, in the agency's response to the Texas request, WSJ reported.
The Texas Department of Agriculture hinted that the EPA's approach was not consistent.
"The decision by federal regulators seems to suggest this product is somehow more dangerous for the environment when it is applied near a cotton plant than when it is applied near a sorghum plant," Black said. "The EPA has previously approved Milo-Pro to be used on sorghum crops all across Texas and the nation."
Texas is the nation's largest cotton producer, accounting for 33 percent of last year's crop, which was valued at $5.2 billion, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.