The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday approved the use of a controversial pesticide that environmentalists have linked to Agent Orange.
The EPA’s decision allows the use of Dow Chemical Co.’s Enlist Duo herbicide in six Midwestern states, subject to certain restrictions.
The approval follows a decision last month from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that approved Dow’s corn and soybeans that are resistant to the herbicide and designed to be used as part of one system that can kill weeds while keeping the crops alive. The crops are genetically modified.
The agency said the herbicide is not related to the deadly component of Agent Orange, which is banned.
“Enlist Duo will provide a new tool to help farmers manage troublesome weeds while growing [genetically engineered] corn and soybeans,” Jim Jones, the EPA’s assistant administrator in charge of chemical safety, told reporters.
Enlist Duo consists of a common pesticide known by the brand name Roundup and a slight variation on another pesticide, Jones said.
“Both 2,4-D and Glyphosate have long been in use in agriculture and around homes,” he said. “2,4-D and Glyphosate are two of the most widely used herbicides to control weeds in the world.”
Another variation of 2,4-D — a common name for the chemical 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid — was used as an ingredient in Agent Orange, an herbicidal weapon the United States military used in the Vietnam War.
But Jones said environmentalists who call 2,4-D Agent Orange are furthering an “urban myth,” because the deadly part of Agent Orange has been banned for years.
“EPA canceled 2,4, 5-T, the component of Agent Orange that made it dangerous, in 1985,” Jones said.
Farmers and Dow have been pushing for approval of Enlist Duo for years as an alternative to Monsanto Co.’s Roundup system, which includes a weed killer and “Roundup Ready” crops, Reuters reported. Some weeds have developed immunity to Roundup.
Jones said the EPA examined the potential harm to humans, the environment, endangered species and others in its studies on Enlist Duo.
It found that use of Enlist Duo would be safe for all ages and agricultural workers, as well as animals and the environment.
“Our decision reflects sounds science and an understanding of the risks of pesticides to human health and the environment,” Jones said.
Environmental law group Earthjustice blasted the approval of the herbicide, which it said is a component of Agent Orange.
“It's very disappointing that EPA is giving the green light to a massive increase in use of 2, 4-D, which has been linked to some very serious illnesses, without adequately assessing the impacts on public health,” Paul Achitoff, an Earthjustice attorney, said in a statement.
He also accused EPA of not consulting proper agencies on the herbicide’s effects on plants and animals.
Achitoff said the group is considering its legal options to appeal potentially the approval.
— This story was updated at 1:36 p.m.