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USDA Decision Slows Weed-control Technology Registration Process

May 20, 2013
By: Rhonda Brooks, Farm Journal Seeds & Production Editor
Brett Begemann and Hugh Grant Monsanto
Hugh Grant (right), Monsanto Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Brett Begemann (left), President and Chief Commercial Officer, share their perspective on the USDA-APHIS EIS decision at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, Mo.  
 
 

Industry leaders encourage farmers to provide input to the Agency during public meetings.

John Davis switches back-and-forth between two different hats as he evaluates the decision announced last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The agency says it will conduct two environmental impact statements (EIS) on transgenic corn, soybean and cotton crops designed to tolerate 2,4-D and dicamba.

When he puts on his consumer hat, Davis says he understands the concerns some members of the American public have about the registration process and use of transgenic technology.

"In the end, the consumer is who we have to think about in all this, their concerns; I try to be very considerate of that," says Davis, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat near Delaware, Ohio.

However, when Davis puts on his farmer hat, he wonders who is looking out for the best interests of agriculture.

"I can understand the EPA or FDA having reservations about these products and wanting the impact study. But the USDA? They’re supposed to be on my side," he says.

The USDA-APHIS decision has been criticized by some members of the agricultural industry, including the American Soybean Association (ASA), the collective voice of 21,000 U.S. soybean producers.

Soybean farmer and ASA president, Danny Murphy, Canton, Miss., says the agency has no scientific rational for its decision.

"Even in APHIS' own press release, the agency cites the sustained, safe use of 2,4-D since the 1940s and dicamba since 1967," Murphy states in an ASA press release issued last week.

Davis has similar views. "I’d like to have scientifically backed data on why this has to go into an environmental impact study. I don’t think that’s too much to ask," says Davis, past president of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association.

The agency decision to conduct the environmental impact statements appears to have less to do with 2,4-D and dicamba and more to do with the genetically engineered seed developed to resist the herbicides, according to a USDA-APHIS press release: "Under the National Environmental Policy Act, APHIS is required to evaluate the potential environmental impacts that could result from a deregulation of new GE plants by the Agency."

The agency reports it received a total of 8,200 comments and 400,000 petition signatures on two USDA APHIS comment period dockets specific to the Dow AgroSciences Enlist Weed Control System, which is based on 2,4-D and glyphosate. The dockets were for Enlist corn and Enlist soybeans.

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RELATED TOPICS: Technology, Crops, Weeds

 
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