Dow Chemicals is seeking approval in the US for a genetically engineered (GE) corn that is resistant to the pesticide 2,4-D. This chemical herbicide is a major ingredient in Agent Orange, a defoliant widely used during the Vietnam War. It is a possible carcinogen and is suspected of being an endocrine distrupter. It has been linked to health problems including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lowered sperm counts, liver disease and Parkinson’s disease. Ontario has banned the use of 2,4-D for cosmetic uses because of concerns over the product: “There’s been very little study done over the years as to the cumulative effect,” said Ontario Environment Minister John Gerretsen in 2009. However, USDA approval will dramatically increase use of this dangerous chemical.

The drive to develop 2,4-D resistant corn is tied to the proliferation of superweeds that are evolving in response to increased use of Monsanto’s Roundup resistant GE crops and excessive use of Roundup herbicide. Farmers are on a pesticide treadmill forced to adopt more and more toxic technologies to adapt.

If Agent Orange Corn is approved in the US, it will soon be on dinner plates and on grocery store shelves in Canada also. Experience with genetically engineered crops shows that once they are widely introduced into the field, contamination is inevitable. Moreover, the Canadian government considers harmonizing Canadian and US crop approvals a priority.

The Centre for Food Safety is leading a campaign to demand that the US stop the approval of Agent Orange corn.

More food issues on Green Action Centre’s Food Page.