2,4-D or not 2,4-D: A Question is Answered

The Environmental Protection Agency decided not to order the widely-used herbicide, 2, 4-D, off the market.  In so doing, the EPA denied the Natural Resources Defense Council’s petition to revoke the chemical’s approval.  The EPA determined that the environmental group had not adequately shown that 2, 4-D is harmful under the conditions in which it is used.  “At best, N.R.D.C. is asking E.P.A. to take a revised look at the toxicity of 2, 4-D,” the E.P.A. stated, “yet the ground for tolerance revocation is a lack of safety.”

First authorized for use in the late 1940s, 2, 4-D was one of two ingredients in “Agent Orange”, an herbicide used during the Vietnam War to defoliate trees.  The other component, 2, 4, 5-T, was found to produce 2, 3, 7, 8-TCDD, the most toxic form of dioxin, as a by-product, and the US Department of Agriculture halted its use on food crops (except rice), in 1970, and the EPA terminated all remaining uses in the US in 1985.  Because of the TCDD contaminant, Agent Orange has been blamed for a number of serious illnesses in exposed individuals and their off-spring.  Agent Orange had a much higher level of TCDD than commercially-utilized 2, 4, 5-T, and it was sprayed in concentrations that were 50 times greater than those normally used on US agriculture.

At present, 2, 4-D is one of the most commonly used weed killers in the world.  It is an ingredient in many home lawn-care products and it is used by countless farmers.  Use is expected to grow substantially in the coming years because the primary manufacturer is seeking federal approval to sell corn seeds that are genetically-engineered to be resistant to 2, 4-D.  Farmers planting that corn would be able to spray 2, 4-D on their fields to kill weeds without hurting the crop.

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