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NRDC Renews Call to Ban Most Common Lawn Weed Killer

Center for Food Safety Asks for Public Comment to Fight Increased Use of 2,4-D

What would you think of a product that had these types of warnings on the label: “EMERGENCY OVERVIEW: WARNING-POISON . . . Keep out of reach of children . . . Avoid contact with skin, eyes and clothing . . . Do not inhale fumes?”

What if the product can cause these kinds of ailments, as described by the manufacturer on the Material Safety Data Sheet: “nausea . . . vomiting . . . abdominal pain . . . decreased blood pressure . . . muscle weakness . . . muscle spasms . . . headache . . . dizziness . . . respiratory irritation . . . severe eye irritation including corneal opacity and irreversible eye damage?”

And what if I told you that product is used every day in your neighborhood, maybe in your own yard, and your children may regularly roll around in its midst? What if your children are regularly exposed to this product on the playgrounds and playing fields of their school?

If your children don’t live in New York or Connecticut, or must of Canada — where the product is banned — then daily exposure to this product from early spring to late autumn is probably a fact of life. And maybe your children don’t suffer the above symptoms every day, but, then again, maybe they do for certain days of the year. You, as a parent, just have no idea what caused the headache, rash or asthma.

The product in question is 2,4-D, a nerve toxin used as a lawn weed killer since 1947. If the agri-business industry gets its way, 2,4-D will also be sprayed all over much of our food as it grows.

“Despite decades of scientific studies showing links to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans (and Canine Malignant Lymphoma in household dogs), this chemical survives and thrives as one of the top three pesticides sold in the United States today,” writes Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Newer science shows that (2,4-D) is not just a cancer problem, but that this pesticide interferes with several essential hormones, thereby increasing the risks of birth defects and neurologic damage in children. Studies in Midwest wheat-growing areas (where 2,4-D is heavily used) have shown increased rates of certain birth defects, especially in male children, and lower sperm counts in adults.”

After evaluating all this evidence, Solomon’s NRDC petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2008 to cancel registrations for 2,4-D. The EPA has basically ignored one of America’s largest environmental agencies, so Friday, Feb. 24, the NRDC filed a lawsuit against the agency for the delay.

The feeling of urgency in the environmental community has been heightened, ever since Dow and Monsanto teamed up to genetically modify food crops to be resistant to 2,4-D. That means the use of 2,4-D could escalate exponentially in the very near future.

“In a match that some would say was made in hell, two of the world’s leading producers of agro-chemicals have joined forces in a partnership to reintroduce the use of the herbicide 2, 4-D, one-half of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange, which was used by American forces to clear jungle during the Vietnam War,” wrote Richard Schiffman in the Ecologist. “These two biotech giants have developed a weed management program that, if successful, would go a long way toward a predicted doubling of harmful herbicide use in America’s corn belt and worldwide during the next decade.

“The problem for corn farmers is that ‘superweeds’ have been developing resistance to the best-selling herbicide Roundup, which is being sprayed on millions of acres in the U.S. Midwest and elsewhere. Dow Agrosciences has developed a strain of corn that it says will solve the problem. The new genetically modified variety can tolerate 2,4-D, which will kill off the Roundup resistant weeds, but leave the corn standing. Farmers who opt into this system will be required to double-dose their fields with a deadly cocktail of Roundup plus 2,4-D, both of which are manufactured by Monsanto.”

The Center for Food Safety is so incensed by the potential of this new crop that it asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend the public comment period to April 27.

2,4-D drift and runoff “pose serious risk for environmental harm” according to the Center, which vowed to challenge USDA’s decision in court if the herbicide-resistant corn is approved.

Public comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2010-0103-0001 or by mail to Docket No. APHIS-2010-0103, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

Meanwhile, the reading on the material safety data sheet for 2,4-D only gets more interesting as the list of warnings grows: “Causes redness and tearing . . . Vapours and mist can cause irritation . . . Skin exposure may aggravate preexisting skin conditions . . . Inhalation of mist may aggravate preexisting respiratory conditions . . . Repeated overexposure may cause effects to liver, kidneys, blood chemistry, and gross motor function . . . The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists exposure to (2,4-D) as a class 2B carcinogen . . . studies in laboratory animals with 2,4-D have shown decreased fetal body weights and delayed development in the offspring at doses toxic to mother animals.”

We’ve lived with this poison in our midst for 65 years. Isn’t that long enough?

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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