EPA Approves Enlist Duo – Georgetown International Environmental law Review

Nick Nunn - EPA

EPA Approval of Enlist Duo Use Draws Criticism, Support, and Legal Confrontation

By Nick Nunn, Staff Contributor

In an October 15th press release, the EPA approved the use of Enlist Duo, an herbicide developed by Dow Chemical. Dow developed the herbicide for use on genetically modified corn and soy products. The herbicide and genetic modification, together, will allow farmers to kill newer, herbicide-resistant weeds without harming crops.

The EPA approval has drawn both praise and criticism from the usual suspects. Members of the chemical industry hail the approval as another step toward increasing farming yields and efficiency. Watchdog groups claim chemical manufacturers are putting profits ahead of human or environmental health and, ironically, that the use of Enlist Duo will simply result in the creation of new, more herbicide-resistant weeds—a result of industry competitor Monsanto’s herbicide product, Roundup. The EPA has only approved use of the herbicide in six states, but is currently seeking comments for approval in ten additional states. You may provide your own comment to the EPA here.

“Member of the chemical industry hail the approval of Enlist Duo as another step toward increasing farming yields and efficiency, while watchdog groups claim chemical manufacturers are putting profits ahead of human or environmental health.”

The general public is unlikely to pay much attention to the approval. But, if they did, it is unclear how they would respond. The public has usually valued the environment over economic growth. However, Gallup polls show the Great Recession reversed those priorities, and they are only beginning to return to their historical levels. Furthermore, there still remains a factual issue, is 2,4-D, a main component in the new herbicide, dangerous to human or environmental health?

Today, the EPA’s answer is no. Yet, they would advise against swimming in 2,4-D exposed water. Critics cite a range of studies claiming 2,4-D causes lymphoma and disrupts hormonal activity, and Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services has weighed in warning its citizens of the potential danger. Ultimately, the situation appears to be one of scientific uncertainty that the EPA has decided will not stand in the way of higher farm yields.

“Ultimately, the situation appears to be one of scientific uncertainty that the EPA has decided will not stand in the way of higher farm yields.”

Non-profit environmental law organizations, including Earth Justice, are contemplating legal challenge to the EPA’s decision. They reason that the approval is illegal because the EPA failed to consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which the EPA was required to do since it concluded the herbicide will have no impact on endangered species. Moreover, the groups believe the EPA may have violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act by failing to confirm that the herbicide will not have an unreasonable, adverse impact on human or environmental health. The claims will face an uphill climb as the courts’ requirement that challengers must show an agency decision to be “arbitrary and capricious” (See, State Farm) may pose too daunting a task.

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