Produce growers, processors oppose new Dow corn - The Packer

Produce growers, processors oppose new Dow corn

04/25/2012 11:42:00 AM
Andy Nelson

A coalition of fruit, vegetable and grain growers says a new corn variety will use herbicides potentially toxic to crops in neighboring fields, and it is petitioning the U.S. government to do something about it.

Save our Crops Coalition was founded in 2012 to oppose the deregulation of 2,4-D and dicamba tolerant crops, one of which is a genetically-modified corn variety made by Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical, according to the coalition’s website.

A Dow spokesman said the group’s criticisms are directed at a version of 2,4-D that Dow no longer uses, and that the company’s new version of the chemical is much safer.

Save our Crops Coalition says the herbicides are highly toxic to fruits and vegetables and other crops. The group believes their use will increase dramatically with new resistant crop varieties, and that drift could spread the herbicides to adjancent fields.

The coalition is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct an environmental impact statement on the cumulative effects of deregulating crops such as Dow’s new corn crop, which are known as synthetic auxin tolerant crops.

According to the group, synthetic auxin tolerant crops will be grown near tomato, grape, green bean, pea, cucumber, squash, melon, pumpkin and other fields.

“Numerous studies have been done on the effect of simulated synthetic auxin herbicides on specialty crops,” said Robert Swinford, an attorney for Save our Crops Coalition.

Swinford cited a Washington State University study that found that despite significant gains over several decades to mitigate the effects of synthetic auxins on grape vineyards, crops have still been damaged.

Garry Hamlin, a Dow spokesman, said the herbicide the company created to be used with its new corn variety is different from the traditional form of 2,4-D that the coalition has raised concerns about.

The new herbicide, a 2,4-D choline that is part of Dow’s Enlist Weed Control System, was created with the input of many coalition members, and it’s safer than earlier versions of 2,4-D, Hamlin said.

“(It) has demonstrated a 92% reduction in volatility and a 90% reduction in drift, based on research data recently presented at scientific meetings,” he said.

Creve Coeur, Mo.-based seed company Monsanto Co. is developing a dicamba-tolerant soybean, said Danielle Stuart, a company spokeswoman.

In preparation for its introduction, the company has spent years researching ways to mitigate injury to vegetables and other sensitive crops, Stuart said.

“As the dicamba-tolerant system moves closer to launch, Monsanto has been and will continue to work with academics and farmers toward the responsible introduction and use of the dicamba-tolerant soybean system,” she said, adding that the company’s new soybean system will include “choices in low-volatility formulations.”

Save Our Crops Coalition’s members include Jean Ann Sieler, an attorney representing growers involved in drift damage litigation in Michigan and Ohio; the director of agriculture at an Indiana-based tomato processor; and four produce growers in Indiana and Kentucky.

Save our Crops Coalition’s website, http://saveourcrops.org, lists partner groups including the Indiana Vegetable Growers Association, the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketing Association, the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association, the Illiana Watermelon Association and several produce processors.



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