The Agriculture Department’s Plant and Animal Health Inspection Service (APHIS) should grant non-regulated status to a new variety of herbicide-tolerant corn, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). Approval of DAS-40278-9, the regulatory name of the genetically engineered corn variety, will provide farmers an important alternative to manage hard-to-control weeds and respond to potential herbicide resistance.

A plant risk assessment conducted  by APHIS “clearly justifies a determination of non-regulated status” for DAS-40278-9, AFBF told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a letter. “APHIS has done a commendable job completing thorough plant and environmental assessments, which clearly indicate DAS-40278-9 is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk,” the letter stated.

The new corn variety is tolerant of the herbicide 2,4-D, which has been used by U.S. farmers for 60 years to control broadleaf weeds in fruit, vegetable and field crops, as well as turf and residential lawns. During that time, the Environmental Protection Agency has conducted detailed, science-based regulatory reviews to evaluate the human health and environmental safety risks of 2,4-D. In 2005, EPA reassessed 2,4-D and reregistered it for use on crops including corn. Earlier in April, EPA issued a decision not to re-open the safety assessment for 2,4-D based on review of the best available science.

“To remain internationally competitive and lead the world in achieving the productivity and efficiency gains required to meet the food, fiber and fuel demands and environmental challenges of the twenty-first century, U.S. agriculture must stay on the cutting edge of technology,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Farm Bureau members have a strong interest in maintaining and improving access to new input technologies, such as herbicide-tolerant seed, while preserving and enhancing the coexistence of diverse crops and cropping systems.”

The letter to Vilsack also noted that concerns related to the use of herbicides in cropping systems should continue to be addressed by EPA, and that the manufacturer of DAS-40278-9 is addressing concerns related to the use of the corn variety near sensitive crops through innovative technology and stewardship methods.