USDA Quietly Signals its Intention to Green-Light New (GMO) Genetically Engineered Soybean Seed from Dow AgroSciences
In early July, on the sleepy Friday after Independence Day, the USDA quietly signaled its intention to green-light a new genetically engineered soybean seed from Dow AgroSciences. The product is designed to produce soy plants that withstand 2,4-D, a highly toxic herbicide (and, famously, the less toxic component in the notorious Vietnam War-era defoliant Agent Orange).
Readers may remember that during an even-sleepier period—the week between Christmas and the New Year—the USDA made a similar move on Dow's 2,4-D-ready corn.
If the USDA deregulates the two products—as it has telegraphed its intention to do—Dow will enjoy a massive profit opportunity. Every year, about half of all US farmland is planted in corn and soy. Currently, Dow's rival Monsanto has a tight grip on weed management in corn-and-soy country. Upward of 90 percent of soy and 70 percent of corn is engineered to withstand another herbicide called glyphosate through highly profitable Monsanto's Roundup Ready seed lines. And after so many years of lashing so much land with the same herbicide, glyphosate-resistant superweeds are now vexing farmers and "alarming" weed control experts throughout the Midwest.
Most damningly of all, the new product is highly unlikely to end the problem of weed resistance, as this 2012 paper by Penn State University researchers shows (which I wrote about here). More likely, they conclude, Dow's novel seeds will generate new generations of superweeds—which will almost certainly require a another round of new chemical cocktails.