Late Friday, the American Farm Bureau Federation dipped it's toe into the debate over a new crop technology currently being reviewed by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The association says the the agency should grant non-regulated status to a new variety of herbicide tolerant corn. In a release on the topic, the group says approval of DAS-40278-9, would provide farmers "an important alternative to manage hard-to-control weeds and respond to potential herbicide resistance.
The technology, already known to many as the Enlist system, combines glyphosate tolerance with tolerance to 2,4-D in an effort to manage resistant weeds. In the Farm Bureau statement, the group says the risk assessment conducted by APHIS "clearly justifies a determination of no-regulated status" for the technology. The group made this statement in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The group's letter also says APHIS has "done a commendable job completing thorough plant and environmental assessments, which clearly indicate DAS-40278-9 is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk."
The organization points out that the new tech adds the 2,4-D tolerance "which has been used by U.S. farmers for 60 years to control broadleaf weeds in fruit, vegetable and field crops, as well as turf and residential lawns." The group notes that during that time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has conducted detailed, science-based regulatory reviews to evaluate the human health and environmental safety risks of 2,4-D. In 2005, EPA reassessed 2,4-D and reregistered it for use on crops including corn. Earlier in April, EPA issued a decision not to re-open the safety assessment for 2,4-D based on review of the best available science.
"To remain internationally competitive and lead the world in achieving the productivity and efficiency gains required to meet the food, fiber and fuel demands and environmental challenges of the twenty-first century, U.S. agriculture must stay on the cutting edge of technology," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "Farm Bureau members have a strong interest in maintaining and improving access to new input technologies, such as herbicide-tolerant seed, while preserving and enhancing the coexistence of diverse crops and cropping systems."
The letter to Vilsack also noted that concerns related to the use of herbicides in cropping systems should continue to be addressed by EPA, and that the manufacturer of DAS-40278-9 is addressing concerns related to the use of the corn variety near sensitive crops through innovative technology and stewardship methods.
Some specialty crop groups have expressed concern over the potential wider use of 2,4-D and the worry over off-target drift or volatility issues. One group, the Save Our Crops Coalition, issued two petitions recently, one to APHIS and the other to EPA calling for further examination of the technology.