Corn Pesticide Crisis

New Biotech Corn Could Further Damage Crops

Written by Alex Reid
Posted April 25, 2012

A new strain of corn developed by Dow AgroSciences has the capability of being either the best thing for American farmers or the worst thing for American farmers.

According to Reuters, farmers have been walloped by a particularly nasty bout of “super weeds” that are harming corn crops. In response, Dow created this new biotech corn that will get rid of these weeds…or, like a virus, make the weeds even more resistant to chemical treatment while also damaging other crops. No one really knows.

This has left the industry in a serious quandary.

The corn, called “Enlist” is still currently in the process of obtaining regulatory approval, but it’s already causing a huge stir. 5,000 people have already submitted public comments on Dow’s proposal. Should the corn cut the mustard, it would be on the market in time for the 2013 harvest.

The herbicidal component to the corn makes it extremely resistant to chemical treatment. It can withstand some serious dousings of chemicals, something that worries critics. The component in question is 2,4-D and it has a history of very effective use, but critics also charge that traditional applications of the herbicide could, through humidity, migrate to other untreated crops and cause great damage.

“Massive amounts of 2,4-D can cause major changes, threatening specialty crops miles away,” John Bode said. He is the lawyer for a coalition of farmers and food companies asking for regulatory restrictions of Dow’s proposed line. He’s also the former assistant Secretary of Agriculture from the Reagan administration.

Enlist is also the first in a planned series of herbicide-tolerant crops Dow has been developing in order to combat Monsanto’s market dominance with its genetically modified Roundup Ready seeds. If Enlist hits the market, a slew of other herbicide-resistant crops will surely follow.