Greens blast EPA for approving ‘superweed’ pesticide for farmers

Green groups are lashing out against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after it approved what they see as a dangerous weed killer.

The EPA gave the go-ahead to a pesticide known as Enlist Duo on Wednesday to help farmers fight back against stubborn "superweeds" that are resistant to basic weed killers. The move represents a big step forward for farmers.

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But green groups say the EPA is putting the environment and public health in danger by approving a toxic chemical to be used in corn and soybean fields.

“We are disappointed in the EPA’s complete disregard for the health of farmers, rural residents and especially children in its decision to deregulate this dangerous weed killer,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of the Just Label It campaign, which is pushing for farmers to label genetically modified foods.

The EPA says it is putting protections in place so the superweed killer will not harm agricultural workers, people who consume the foods they are sprayed on or animals. These measures include rules against spraying them on crops from airplanes or when wind speed is above 15 miles per hour.

"Dozens of other countries including Canada, Mexico, Japan and 26 European Union members have approved these pesticides for use on numerous crops and residential lawns," the agency wrote. "Last year, Canada approved the use of Enlist Duo for the same uses that EPA is authorizing."

But environmental groups remain concerned the move could jeopardize public health. Hirschberg noted some of the chemicals used in this superweed killer have been linked to Parkinson's disease and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, among other health problems.

They say children are particularly vulnerable to such pesticides like this.

Getting rid of superweeds requires using stronger chemicals because they are resistant to basic weed killers. But critics say this only perpetuates the problem.

Hirshberg called it a "chemical treadmill."

“Relying on the overuse of chemicals to control weeds won’t work in the long run,” he said. “Mother Nature has adapted once, and she’ll do it again.”

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) also expressed concerns about the superweed killer.

“The EPA’s approval of this highly toxic herbicide flies in the face of scientific evidence that not only are these chemicals toxic to humans and the environment, but that the escalation of their use will only lead to the evolution of a whole new crop of herbicide-resistant superweeds,” said OCA National Director Ronnie Cummins.