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Vegetable growers, Dow settle dispute over new herbicide

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A coalition of vegetable growers and food producers led by Indiana-based Red Gold Inc. will drop their opposition to a new herbicide developed by Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences LLC, the two sides announced Tuesday.

The Save Our Crops Coalition said in the statement that it would “amend” its previous requests that U.S. regulators conduct an environment review and convene a panel of outside advisers before approving Dow’s Enlist Weed Control System.

The coalition made those demands in April before the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Their concern was that Dow’s Enlist system uses an old herbicide called 2,4-D, which has a history of drifting from fields of corn and soybeans onto vegetables, grapes and trees, and killing them. In response, Dow officials insisted they had reformulated 2,4-D to cut down such drifting by 90 percent.

Since the coalition raised an alarm, the two sides spent time discussing Dow’s published research on how much its reformulation of 2,4-D limits drifting. Also, Dow has developed more detailed plans for educating farmers on “best practices” for applying 2,4-D near sensitive crops and reaffirmed its commitment to investigate cases of damage caused by drifting of the herbicide.

Dow also promised to include additional commitments to such programs in its labeling for the Enlist product.

The coalition “believes that commitments made by Dow AgroSciences represent substantial measures to mitigate potential non-target plant damage impacts from herbicide spray drift and volatilization associated with 2,4-D tolerant crops,” Tuesday’s joint press statement said.

Dow has yet to win approval for its Enlist system, which also includes genetically modified seeds for soybeans that tolerate the 2,4-D herbicide. The Enlist product is intended to help farmers whose fields have developed weeds that are resistant to the leading herbicide, Round-Up, made by St. Louis-based Monsanto Co.

Dow expects its Enlist system, including 2,4-D and related seeds, will generate more than $1 billion in earnings over the product's life cycle. Dow also plans to launch genetically modified seeds for corn and cotton as part of the Enlist system.

Monsanto is also developing a new system of soybean seeds that tolerant the herbicide dicamba. The Save Our Crops Coalition has also objected to that new product for similar reasons that it opposed Dow’s Enlist system.

"We have appreciated Dow’s commitment to prevent off-target injury," wrote Steve Smith, director of agriculture at tomato company Red Gold, who has been serving as chairman of the coalition, in an e-mail. "The situation with dicamba has not changed at all and remains a major concern for not only the specialty crop industry but for rural homeowners and gardeners."

 

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