EPA Approves Controversial 'Superweed' Pesticide for GMO Crops
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today approval, "with first-time ever restrictions," of the new herbicide Enlist Duo, manufactured by Dow AgriSciences. The pesticide is approved for use in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Approval is pending in 10 other states with public comments continuing through Nov. 14.
The herbicide, designed to control weeds in fields of soybeans and corn genetically modified to resist it, combines two other herbicides, 2, 4-D and glyphosate. Dow produced the new combo herbicide in response to the growing resistance of weeds aka "superweeds" to commonly used glyphosate herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup.
According to the EPA, its decision is based on "a large body of science and an understanding of the risk of pesticides to human health and the environment."
It goes on to note that "dozens of other countries" have approved the use of the chemicals and says, "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 decision says that the "first-time ever" restrictions it is putting in place include a 30-foot no-spray buffer zone, no application allowed when wind speeds are greater than 15 mph and only ground application allowed.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
"To ensure that weeds will not become resistant to 2,4-D and continue increased herbicide use, EPA is imposing a new robust set of requirements on the registrant," says the decision. "These requirements include extensive surveying and reporting to EPA, grower education and remediation plans. The registration will expire in six years, allowing EPA to revisit the issue of resistance. In the future, the agency intends to apply this approach to weed resistance management for all existing and new herbicides used on herbicide tolerant crops."
Environmental and food safety groups were less than impressed by these safety precautions.
The Center for Food Safety condemned the decision, pointing out that 2, 4-D has been linked to immune system cancers, Parkinson's disease, endocrine disruption and reproductive issues, with children at particular risk, and that studies have shown that the new herbicide will lead to more resistant superweeds.
“Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops led us down this futile path of chemical dependency," said the group's executive director Andrew Kimbrell. "Now imagine Roundup on overdrive. Why are our agencies listening to the chemical companies and not the scientists, doctors and lawmakers who know that more chemicals are not the answer to the superweed problem?"
Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, one of 60 members of Congress to sign a letter opposing Enlist Duo's approval, said, "Today, EPA shunned its duties to protect the environment and safeguard public health by bowing to corporate interests instead of relying on science. 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."
"It's very disappointing that EPA is giving the green light to a massive increase in use of 2,4-D, which has been linked to some very serious illnesses, without adequately assessing the impacts on public health," said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff said. “EPA hasn't bothered to consult the expert agencies about the herbicide's effects on endangered plants and animals. Instead it made the absurd assumption it will have no effect at all. This heedless action merely perpetuates the endless cycle of more genetically engineered crops leading to more pesticide use, leading to more of the same."
The Center for Biological Diversity condemned the EPA's failure to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the herbicide's purported safety around endangered species.
“This was an unbelievably foolish decision," said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Enlist Duo will harm dozens of endangered species and is another nail in the coffin for the monarch butterfly. Once again the EPA has turned a blind eye to endangered species, clean water and human health in its apparently endless desire to placate multinational pesticide companies. At a minimum, the agency needs to restrict use of this new chemical cocktail around streams, endangered species habitats and our communities. The monarch butterfly's migration is one of America's most awe-inspiring natural phenomena, and the EPA is willing to throw it all away just to get one more pesticide product on the market—it's shameful."
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Both Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety said they will explore legal recourse.
“EPA has turned its back on those it purports to protect—the American people and our environment," said Kimbrell. “In the wake of our government's abdication of its responsibilities, Center for Food Safety will pursue all available legal options to stop the commercialization of these dangerous crops."
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theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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