Monday, May 12, 2014

Coming to your table? GMO crops resistant to 'war herbicide' 2,4D

The US looks set to approve GM crops that resist the 'Agent Orange' pesticide 2,4-D as well as glyphosate, writes Helena Paul. If it does, the toxic chemical - created in WW2 to destroy enemy food supplies - will soon end up in animal feeds, and the food we eat.

We need a holistic and systems-based agroecological approach - not agriculture as a war on the land and people.
The main props of modern industrial agriculture, synthetic fertilisers and pesticides (both herbicides and insecticides) emerged from the World Wars of the 20th century.
They emerged from war and their use is a continual war - on the land, the soil, biodiversity and people. The impacts include illness and many deaths among people, and the destruction of the life of the soil, water, plants and insects.
In December 2011, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal indicted six major pesticide producers, Monsanto, Dow Chemical, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta and Dupont for violating human rights to life and health, and destroying biodiversity. [1]
A product of war, for war on the land
One of these agricultural weapons, 2,4-D (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) was first discovered during World War Two when, as reported by Orvin Burnside in The History of 2,4-D and Its Impact on Development of the Discipline of Weed Science in the United States: [2]
" ... both United States and England scientists initiated secret biological warfare research on plant growth regulators with the objective of destroying enemy crops.
"Kraus at the University of Chicago had observed since 1936 that certain growth regulators were phytotoxic (28). Kraus was aware of the inadequacy of existing herbicides, and in 1941 he was first to propose that growth regulators might work as herbicides, because they often killed test plants."
Like its more potent relative, 2,4,5-T, 2,4-D is a synthetic auxin, or plant hormone that acts as a selective weedkiller. And as Burnside explains, [3]
"In November 1942, the United States Army began developing Camp Detrick (later renamed Fort Detrick) in Frederick, Maryland, as the center for research and testing of chemicals for biological warfare with special emphasis on crop destroying chemicals."
This research, authorised by the US Chemical Warfare Service, included investigating the use of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. [4] After the war, Dow Chemical Company and Union Carbide acquired patents on some formulations of 2,4-D and the process of commercialization began.
Later of course, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, produced by Monsanto and Dow Chemical, were used in combination as Agent Orange and massively sprayed in Vietnam to defoliate the forests.
They also had the effect of destroying small-scale agriculture. As we now know, the 2,4,5-T was contaminated with a particular dioxin, leaving a terrible legacy of birth defects and disease. [5]


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