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Dow Agro's Enlist weed killer cleared by EPA

October 15, 2014

Dow Chemical Co. won U.S. approval for its Enlist Duo weed killer, clearing the way for sales of corn and soybeans genetically engineered to tolerate the herbicide.

Enlist Duo can be used in six states, with approval pending in another 10, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday in a written statement. Midland, Michigan-based Dow, the largest U.S. chemical maker by sales, will announce its marketing plan for the Enlist weed control system, which includes an herbicide and crops designed to survive it, “in the coming weeks.”

The Enlist Duo system was developed by Indianapolis-based Dow Agrosciences, a Dow Chemical subsidiary.

Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris is counting on Enlist Duo to help double earnings at Dow AgroSciences in five to seven years. Enlist was created to compete with Monsanto Co.’s popular Roundup Ready system, which kills weeds using glyphosate while leaving crops unscathed.

“Crossing this final milestone represents a pivotal achievement for Dow,” Liveris said in a written statement. Enlist Duo “is expected to deliver significant growth for Dow,” he said.

Enlist Duo is a combination of the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate. The approval will increase use of 2,4-D by two- to sevenfold, reaching as much as 176 million pounds in 2020, the Center for Food Safety said in an e-mailed statement, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. Enlist Duo will create “still more intractable weeds” that survive both glyphosate and 2,4-D, according to the group which favors curbs on genetically engineered crops.

Environmental concerns

Dow can sell Enlist for six years while the EPA determines whether glyphosate-resistant weeds also are becoming immune to 2,4-D, Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said on a call with reporters today. The company must reapply to the EPA to continue selling Enlist after 2020.

“EPA shares the concern of many farmers and environmental groups that the resistance to glyphosate experienced by growers will simply be repeated by 2,4-D, contributing to a pattern of increased herbicide use,” Jones said on the call.

Dow must search for resistant weeds and report them to the EPA, Jones said. The agency could force farmers to rotate crops or use different chemicals, conditions that will be required in future applications for weed killers that target herbicide- tolerant crops, including glyphosate.

Glyphosate is no longer effective on some weeds found on about 70 million acres of farmland, double the amount in 2009, Dow said in a presentation last month.

Buffer zone

Monsanto has developed crops to counter glyphosate resistance. It is awaiting USDA approval for soybeans and cotton engineered to tolerate a combination of the herbicides dicamba and glyphosate. A preliminary assessment should be completed “in the next several months,” followed by a regulatory decision in 2015, Jones said.

EPA is registering Enlist Duo in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Approval is pending in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota once the public has a chance to comment on the agency’s decision.

To protect neighboring crops and gardens, Enlist cannot be applied from the air or when wind speed is over 15 miles per hour and farmers must adhere to a 30- foot “no spray” buffer zone around the application area.

The Center for Food Safety, which frequently sues the USDA for approving genetically modified crops, “will pursue all available legal options to stop the commercialization of these dangerous crops,” Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell said in the statement. The EPA failed to properly account for the risk to children exposed to Enlist Duo, the center said.

Dow must submit a separate application to use Enlist with its 2,4-D tolerant cotton, Jones said.

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