The USDA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on Enlist corn and soybeans has been issued and brings American farmers one step closer to obtaining a new tool needed to manage resistant and hard-to-control weeds. Dow AgroSciences contends that the technology seed traits will help raise crop outputs to meet growing demand and provide a boost to the environment and economy. The only remaining action before regulatory approval of the Enlist traits is USDA issuance of a Record of Decision, which is expected in the near future.
USDA produced an extensive Final EIS document with a “well-supported” environmental evaluation. The FEIS states that USDA’s preferred alternative is to deregulate the Enlist corn and soybean traits. The FEIS indicates that Enlist crops will help farmers manage resistant weeds without having to return to aggressive tillage practices, which would adversely impact soil, air and water quality.
“This has been one of the most extensive evaluations of a new agriculture technology in recent history,” said John Cuffe, global regulatory sciences and regulatory affairs leader, Dow AgroSciences. “USDA has produced a thorough, modern assessment. Now we are eagerly anticipating final regulatory approvals from USDA and EPA so farmers can get the help they need.”
Farmers urge swift action
Farmers across the Midwest and Southern U.S. have been grappling with resistant and tough weeds for multiple seasons. Resistant weeds now affect 70 million acres of American farmland, robbing crops of nutrients, sunlight and water, and reducing yields, the crop protection company pointed out.
The problem has grown so severe in some states that stakeholders have sought stop-gap alternatives. The Texas State Department of Agriculture, for example, petitioned the U.S. EPA for emergency access to a herbicide to prevent and manage resistant pigweeds.
Tommy Young has firsthand experience with the weed problem. “It’s unbelievable. I know farmers who have fields that are a total loss because of weeds they can’t control,” said Young, a soybean farmer in Tuckerman, Ark. “How can we do our part to feed American families when some of us can’t even raise a crop?”
Scientists and doctors representing a range of disciplines have voiced support for Enlist on its technical merits and its health and environmental profile.
Dave Garabrant, M.D., MPH, a renowned scientist specializing in environmental medicine and epidemiology, author of an authoritative review of the human health effects of 2,4-D, and a scientific advisor to Dow AgroSciences, noted that “2,4-D, a key component of this technology, has been subject to extensive and robust scientific review of potential effects on human health. There is no scientific basis for claims of adverse health effects in humans at exposure levels below the levels set by regulatory agencies. The peer-reviewed scientific literature provides a reliable foundation for governmental approvals of 2,4-D use around the world.”
Regulatory authorities outside the U.S. have already approved components of the Enlist system, including Canada, Australia, Japan, Colombia, Taiwan, Mexico and others.