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Coalition Files Lawsuit to Stay EPA Decision on New Herbicide Combo

Words by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment
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A coalition of environmental groups and farmers is trying to stay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s October 2014 decision to approve Enlist Duo, a powerful new herbicide.

Enlist Duo is a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate, and it's approved to be used on genetically modified (GMO) crops in six Midwestern states. Enlist Duo approval is expected to expand to 10 other states.

The coalition argues that the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by not consulting with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service about the impact of Enlist Duo on two endangered species in those six Midwestern states, the whooping crane and the Indiana bat.

The whooping crane is one of the world’s most endangered animals. In 2006, there were only about 338 whooping cranes in the wild. The EPA admitted that during the whooping crane's migration the birds “will stop to eat and may consume arthropod prey” that may have been exposed to Enlist Duo and that exposure is toxic to them. The Indiana bat could suffer reproductive damage from Enlist Duo exposure. Scientists cite pesticide contamination of their food supply as one of the reasons for their decline.

The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit to try and stop the approval of Enlist Duo back in October. NRDC claimed that the EPA ignored possible health and safety risks to humans and monarch butterflies. “This short-sighted move by the EPA opens the door for the ever increasing use of pesticides that will only further endanger both wildlife and people which is why NRDC will challenge the decision in court,” the NRDC wrote in its statement.

GMOs, superweeds and increased herbicide use


Back when the federal government first approved the use of GMO crops, supporters said that they would lead to less weeds which would mean less herbicides used. However, the reality is that now there are superweeds, or herbicide-resistant weeds. A Food and Water Watch analysis found that total herbicide use increased by 26 percent (81.2 million pounds) between 2001 and 2010. Glyphosate use applied to the three biggest GMO crops (corn, cotton and soybeans) increased ten-fold between 1996 and 2012. 2,4-D use increased by 90 percent between 2000 and 2012, and could increase by almost three-fifths within two years of 2,4-D tolerant corn’s introduction.

The Food and Water Watch analysis also found that superweeds are greatly increasing. In 2008, only five states reported having glyphosate-resistant waterhemp. But by 2012, 12 states reported having it. Other weeds have been found to be resistant to glyphosate. The International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds found that the amount of multiple herbicide-resistant weed infestations were about one per year between 1997 and 2001, but became three times greater from 2007 to 2011. The cost of superweeds is high for farmers, ranging from $12 to $50 an acre, and as much as $12,000 for an average-sized corn or soybean farm and $28,000 for an average cotton farm.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Read more stories by Gina-Marie Cheeseman