More concern about GM impact statements

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on Friday that the agency plans to prepare two separate environmental impact statements (EIS) before any decision about the regulatory status of crops genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to 2,4-D or dicamba herbicides.

Dow AgroSciences has developed its Enlist Weed Control System using a new formulation of 2,4-D and crops resistant to it, and Monsanto has developed its Xtend crops with resistance to dicamba herbicides. Both companies issued their concerns and disappointment in their genetically modified (GM) crops having to go through an EIS. Dow had anticipated its first Enlist crop registration during 2013 for the 2014 growing season, but it now appears it will be 2015 before farmers can anticipate using any of these GM crops. 

Other organizations and even individual farmers and ag retailers have announced their disappointment in even stronger words than the companies that developed the new GM crops.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization issued a statement, which the Agricultural Retailers Association noted is consistent with its position.

“While the industry fully intends to cooperate with APHIS during this process, we are disappointed by the decision, and we believe that this action by the agency sets bad precedent for future consideration of safe and beneficial genetically engineered plant products.

"These petitions have been under review by APHIS for years, and they have already been subjected to multiple delays in the approval system. Although APHIS received many comments, no new scientific issues about potential risks have been raised. Furthermore, the herbicides in question have been safely used for more than four decades.

"Not only does this decision come at a time when the agency was looking to streamline its approval process and tighten timeframes, but at a time when American farmers need new tools to combat weeds and maximize yields—tools and technologies that are available to farmers in other countries.

"Unfortunately, the U.S. regulatory system for biotech products remains unnecessarily burdensome and unpredictable, and American farmers are paying the price. The United States has always been a world leader in agriculture production with science and technology playing a key role in our success. If we can’t get safe and proven technologies into the hands of our growers, continued leadership is uncertain."

Dan Anderson, a farmer and crop protection ag retailer at Haxtun, Colo., said weed resistance is by no means as wide spread in his area as the Corn Belt or South. He said these new GM products are needed now so that “we can be more proactive in our stance to keep herbicide resistant weeds from spreading.” 

“One of the things that worries me is that this country was a leader in developing crop protection technology not only from a private industry standpoint but also in government regulation. GM crops always have been widely studied and run through FDA, EPA and the USDA for required blessing,” Anderson said.

“Today, we operate in a very competitive environment. There are other countries that are stepping out ahead of us in deregulating products and giving their growers advantages over our agriculture industry.

“It is frustrating that the new Dow AgroSciences’ 2,4-D Enlist program and the Monsanto dicamba resistant crops won’t be available without a delay. They would give use more tools in the tool box to go after resistant weed problems,” Anderson said.

Kip Tom, a large-scale grower based in Indiana with international ag production, issued a statement on his Facebook page.

“Our disappointment is that we as crop producers have to bear the consequences of weed resistance that is rapidly expanding across much of the main crop producing regions of the U.S., resulting in loss of yields and the increase in acres subject to resistant weeds,” Tom said.

“The disappointment is that there are solutions that will help stop the issue in its tracks that have been developed from Industry leaders such as Dow and Monsanto. This solution uses crop protection products (2,4-D and dicamba) that have been used by farmers since the 1960’s with minimal weed resistance occurring. These crop protection products coupled with seed traits have been proven to be safe [and should] be available tools to stop the yield-robbing impact of weed resistance. Further delay by the USDA and EPA will only harm our ability to do our part helping to feed a growing world safely and affordably,” Tom concluded.

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