Dow and Monsanto Set to Team Up to Reintroduce Agent Orange Pesticide in the MidWest

2, 4-D injury in sweet corn

Cross Posted from Op Ed News

In a match that some would say was made in hell, the nation’s two leading producers of agro-chemicals have joined forces in a partnership to reintroduce the use of the herbicide 2, 4-D, one half of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange, which was used by American forces to clear jungle during the Vietnam War. These two biotech giants have developed a weed management program that, if successful, would go a long way toward a predicted doubling of harmful herbicide use in America’s corn belt during the next decade.

The problem for corn farmers is that “superweeds” have been developing resistance to America’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, which is being sprayed on millions of acres in the Midwest and elsewhere. Dow Agrosciences has developed a strain of corn that it says will solve the problem. The new genetically modified variety can tolerate 2, 4-D, which will kill off the Roundup resistant weeds, but leave the corn standing. Farmers who opt into this system will be required to double-dose their fields with a deadly cocktail of Roundup plus 2, 4-D, both of which are manufactured by Monsanto.

But this plan has alarmed environmentalists and also many farmers, who are reluctant to reintroduce a chemical whose toxicity has been well established. The use of 2, 4-D is banned in several European countries and provinces of Canada. The substance is a suspected carcinogen which has been shown to double the incidence of birth defects in the children of pesticide applicators in a study conducted by University of Minnesota pathologist Vincent Garry.

Researchers say that the effect of 2,4-D on human health is still not fully understood. But it may be a risk factor for conditions like non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which was often found in Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. The EPA has stated that the chemical has “endocrine disruption potential” and interferes with the human hormonal system. It has also been shown to be toxic to honeybees, birds and fish according to research conducted by the US Forest Service and others. 

In 2004, a coalition of groups spearheaded by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network, wrote a letter to the EPA taking it to task for underestimating the health and environmental impacts of 2,4-D. America’s agriculture department, the USDA, however, may soon sign off on the pesticide’s use, and is accepting final public comments on the matter until the 27th of this month.

Large scale industrial farming has grown dependent on ever-increasing applications of agrochemicals. Some have compared this to a drug addict who requires larger and larger fixes to stay high. Herbicide use has increased steadily over time as weeds develop resistance and need to be doused with more and deadlier chemicals to kill them. This in turn requires more aggressive genetic engineering of crops that can withstand the escalating chemical assault.

Agricultural scientists warn that this growing addiction to agrochemicals is unsustainable in the long run. The fertility of the soil decreases as earthworms and vital microorganisms are killed off by pesticides and herbicides. They also pollute the groundwater, and may compromise the health of farm animals that are fed with the chemical-infused grain.

These impacts are poised to grow. US Department of Agriculture figures reveal that herbicide use rose by 383 million pounds from 1996 to 2008. Significantly, nearly half of this increase (46 percent) took place between 2007 and 2008 as a result of the hawking of new herbicide resistant crops like the new corn hybrid developed by Dow.

Nobody knows what effect introducing this hybrid would have on the health of American consumers. Corn laced with high levels of 2,4-D could taint everything from breakfast cereals to the beef of corn-fed cattle. Given that corn and high-fructose corn syrup are key elements in so many processed foods, some public health experts warn that all Americans will soon be guinea pigs in an ill-conceived mass experiment with one of the staples of our food supply.

Until recently, genetically engineered herbicide resistant crops were popular with farmers who benefited from higher yields and nearly effortless management of weeds. But now that the weed problem is coming back with a vengeance, some are reconsidering the wisdom of this chemical-intensive mode of farming. Dow biotech corn costs nearly three times more than conventional seed. And the projected doubling of pesticide use in the years ahead will be expensive, as well as destructive to farmland and ecosystems.

There are viable alternatives to chemical intensive farming, time tested methods like crop rotation, use of cover crops and other practices which allow farmers to compete naturally with weeds. The time has come for farmers to revive the knowledge of their ancestors in this regard.

Some agricultural scientists advocate developing a system of Integrated Weed Management to replace the unsustainable use of chemicals. But the big agrochemical companies have no interest in supporting the sustainable agriculture that would put them out of business. So long as there are billions of dollars to be made in selling herbicide and herbicide-resistant genetically-modified seed, there won’t be much research money available to explore the natural alternatives to the destruction of our nation’s heartland.

Posted in News.


  1. Pingback: Partners In Crime: Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences « Thurman's Notebook

  2. Why does it seem that anymore chemicals are always used to solve this issue or that issue” It both angers and saddens me~ to realize that seeking for a natural solution to heal or make right what is wrong on our earth today is ignored mostly.. It’s all that is unaturally made/created that is destroying us and the living earth!! CHEMICALS ARE NOT THE ANSWER~ Its like trying to heal using poison” When will most people open their eyes 🙁

    • Most people will not open their eyes. Most people are blinded or do not really want to know the truth. Most people want the easy quick solution. Nature and naturally created living things on earth are perfect. Nature’s response to man-made things which are innately against nature are disease and distortion. Man is a natural product of God. Man is not perfect..even in his vast knowledge..we will never know as much as Our Creator. Humility and submission are part of the answer..if it is not already too late to heal the earth and ourselves.

    • it won’t change as long as Monsanto , Dow and Syngenta are allowed by our government to monopolize the food chain and it’s production. We need to stand up and be counted!! Speak out!! All of this was so slyly introduced onto our lives without news, or any informing what so ever. We were not given a choice when this all started, we had no idea!! Now that it has gotten out of hand and it has to stop! Write your politicians, write to the companies, protest, spread the word if nothing else. If enough of us did this maybe it would make an impact. At this point tho they have been allowed to infiltrate to the point that we no longer have much of a choice, there is not much else available that they haven’t “touched” in some manner or other. How would farmers ever obtain seeds that aren’t GMO’s in enough quantity to plant acres? Monsanto squashes any producer of nonGMO products. big business and big corps aren’t necessarily progress!!!

    • I completely agree with you! Why are organic methods being sidelined and these dangerous chemicals, known to cause mutations and death, even being CONSIDERED?
      This does not bode well for our world. I am very worried that we are creating mass pestilences and deserts. To me, it appears that the US is destroying itself and its land’s fertility and water’s purity.

  3. They are doing all of this because of money. Back in the day, less corn was produced because the weeds were removed by people. Now people cost too much. They produced the super weeds when they produced roundup. What a vicious circle?

    • MONEY is one of the root causes for the use of man-made pesticides that we now know cause cancer–via pollution of the water, ingestion of livestock, not to mention the bugs that the pesticide was originally meant to kill. Another reason is the ease of their application via machines as tilling the soil the least amount of times saves fuel and time. In “olden” days, when a farm was perhaps 150 acres one farmer could till his soil and pull weeds without the use of chemicals. But in the 70’s when the USDA told farmers to “feed the world” and receive a’s cycle was born. Farmers themselves have put their own lives at risk just in handling the deadly toxins and breathing the dust. Farmers do not like to use these chemicals, pesticides and herbicides..but they no longer really have a choice. It’s get with the program (which the USDA supports) and has been planned by the huge chemical monopolies or go out of business. Today’s farmer in the US has to use the chems. or else get out–they can’t compete and produce enough without the chems and their corporate seeds to pay off their huge debt and interest on the huge machines they use to farm all the huge acres needed to make a middle class income for their families to live. Biotechnology or genetic engineering of seed is not the answer either as the Monsanto seeds need the chemicals to work effectively. Farmers have paid for all the research over the decades via seed company “research” fees tacked onto the price of the seed. Now with a monopoly on both seed and chemicals, the monster corporations can charge whatever they want. It really is a vicious how do we break it? or do we simply do nothing and let Monsanto and Dow ruin us and our world all for the love of money. Simply, it is all GREED!

    • Monsanto has already taken over the world. People are just starting to realize what farmers saw coming a long time ago! The USDA=the US government has also known all along too.

  4. Perhaps, the genetic engineering that is being done at universities modify seeds for plants that produce our food..will lessen the need or use of chemicals created by man and his companies. As long as research can remain “pure” and untainted and not be distorted or purchased by the chemical companies..perhaps then a solution may be found.
    BUT there is a big problem, when the President of the land grant universitiy is receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars to sit as an advisor / consultant on Monsanto Board. shhhhhhh……but don’t tell anyone I told you so because then how would the monopolies on chemicals and seeds make their billions without “paid” university research at public universities supported by taxpayers and unknowing students parents. Conflict of interest?

  5. Pingback: Dow's GMO Corn and Agent Orange in the MidWest | GMO Labeling

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  9. I just got back from Viet Nam in May, and saw the first hand effects of our spraying of Agent Orange on people during the war. So many birth defects still. This is bad stuff. What is happening to the center of our country, supposed to be the heartland, where’s the heart anymore. Aren’t we sick enough from all these chemicals. Don’t let this happen, from an organic farmer.

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