The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now allowing the use of an herbicide called 2, 4-D. Some farmers argue that this herbicide is needed to combat the problem of superweeds that are resistant to less toxic herbicides like glyphosate.
Dow Chemicals and Monsanto created genetically engineered corn and soybeans that were resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, more commonly known as Roundup. Farmers could use large doses of glyphosate to kill weeds without damaging their own crops. Because these Roundup Ready crops were “safe” from herbicide damage, farmers used massive doses of glyphosate that eventually created herbicide-resistant weeds. Since weeds are now resistant to glyphosate, farmers are looking for a new product that will control these superweeds. Recently, Dow proposed using 2, 4-D to the EPA in an effort to attack weeds with a more toxic herbicide. Dow has also created genetically engineered corn and soybeans that are resistant to 2, 4-D. Now, farmers can use a large dose of 2, 4-D herbicide on their fields without damaging their own crops.
Environmentalists believe that the drastic increase
in chemical use will create a vicious cycle of herbicide overuse and superweeds. Further, 2, 4-D was one of the chemicals used in Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and many activists are worried about human health effects. Despite many protests, EPA has allowed the use of 2, 4-D and the genetically engineered crops for commercial use.
- Human Health Because crops are resistant to the herbicide, farmers can use a high dose of the chemical without damaging and poisoning crops. This means more chemicals are being sprayed on food with a greater possibility of human ingestion and contact. 2, 4-D has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, kidney and liver problems, and endocrine disruption.
- Environmental Health
- Creating another superweed: when farmers overuse chemicals, they create a superweed that is resistant to the chemical and harder to kill. This usually means that farmers either continue to apply high doses of chemicals or start using another more toxic chemical.
- Pesticide drift and non-target plants: because farmers are using large amounts of toxic chemicals, the chemicals can drift to neighboring farms killing non-genetically engineered crops as well as native plants.
- Non-target insects: herbicides and pesticides often kill insects, especially pollinators, that are important parts of the natural ecosystem
For more information on naturally removing weeds, check out our factsheet.