A coalition of vegetable growers wants U.S. regulators to study the potential damage facing their fields from a new generation of herbicide-tolerant crops developed by Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co.
The new crops will increase use of older herbicides that can drift onto neighboring fields, according to petitions filed Wednesday by the Save Our Crops Coalition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency. The group wants USDA to conduct an environmental review before approving Dow’s modified corn and EPA to convene an advisory panel to examine impacts from increased application of the chemicals.
The new crops are an alternative to seeds that tolerate Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, to which some weeds are now resistant. Dow would be first to market if its corn, which is tolerant to the older herbicide 2,4-D, gets USDA approval before planting next year.
Herbicides like 2,4-D and dicamba can drift and “have proven to be America’s most dangerous herbicides for non-target plant damage,” said the crop coalition, which was formed this month to fight the increased use of the chemicals. The group includes can and jar-maker Ball Corp. and Seneca Foods Corp., the maker of Libby’s foods.
Save Our Crops has more than 2,000 members including those at member groups such as the Indiana Vegetable Growers Association and the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association, Steve Smith, the coalition’s chairman, said. Smith is agriculture director at Red Gold, the world’s largest closely held canned tomato processor.
Dow and Monsanto are developing new formulations of 2,4-D and dicamba intended to address growers’ concerns.
Dow’s new 2,4-D reduces by at least 90 percent the chemical’s tendency to be absorbed into the air and drift, Kenda Resler Friend, a spokeswoman for the Midland, Mich.-based company said in an e-mail. The herbicide is already approved by EPA for corn, and an additional USDA evaluation of the crop by the USDA is “unnecessary,” she said.
Dow expects its Enlist system, including 2,4-D and related crops, will generate more than $1 billion in earnings as farmers look for ways to control weeds that are no longer killed by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. The number of weed-resistant acres in the U.S. rose by 25 percent in the past year, the company said.
Monsanto is seeking USDA approval for dicamba-tolerant soybeans for planting in 2014. It is developing a reformulated herbicide with BASF SE.
Monsanto is working with an advisory council, including growers of vegetables and other specialty crops, to identify issues associated with dicamba-tolerant beans, Kelli Powers, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis-based company, said in an e-mail. Monsanto will take steps to ensure dicamba is used responsibly, she said.