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‘Cut and paste’ comments not a service to family farms

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New herbicide-resistant soybean, corn and cotton technology would help farmers do a better job of controlling pests and managing resistance, but misinformation about the technologies is infesting public perception.

The National Family Farm Coalition says it’s all about family farms, but its stand on modern agriculture sounds more like something you’d hear from Greenpeace or the Environmental Working Group.

The organization distributed an e-mail last week suggesting “cut and paste” criticisms that people can send to USDA, which has requested public comment on a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist corn and soybeans. The draft EIS proposes full deregulation of the technology (commercialization). The comment period ended Feb. 24.

The NFFC claims the suggested comments are aimed at protecting the family farm, but its intentions are undeniably to strike a blow against the competitiveness of modern farms – most of which are owned and operated by families by the way – by slandering genetic engineering.

 

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Dow’s technology gives tolerance to 2,4-D and glyphosate herbicides and was expected to be released in corn in 2013 and soybeans in 2015. But those opposed to the technology successfully petitioned USDA to require two EISs on Dow’s technology as well as on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Xtend crop system, which gives resistance to dicamba and glyphosate.

These technologies would immediately help farmers, large and small, do a better job of controlling pests and managing resistance. While legitimate concerns have been raised about drift issues in dicamba and 2,4-D, the chemical industry has not ignored them, and has developed formulations of the chemicals that are less prone to drift and are less volatile.

Of course, none of this matters to the NFFC. For example, one of the cut and paste comments says, “Studies have established links between 2,4-D exposure and birth defects, hormone disruption and various cancers. Children are particularly susceptible to its effects.”

While a Cornell University’s evaluation of 2,4-D states in part that “there are no reports that indicate a direct link between 2,4-D exposure and cancer in humans,” the real talking point is that many chemicals, both natural and synthetic, are hazardous.

Would one expect something that kills insects and weeds to not be?

Furthermore, according to an article in The Independent about half of the “natural” chemicals used in organic production are carcinogenic, about the same percentage as synthetic chemicals used in commercial production.

But as The Independent’s Rob Johnston writes, “None of the ‘natural’ chemicals is a reason not to buy organic food; nor are the man-made chemicals used in conventional farming.”

What’s important is that we respect the farmers’ rights to use chemicals, organic or synthetic, as long as the farmer applies them legally and with the appropriate skill, knowledge and stewardship, and is given the opportunity to profit from the enterprise.

Cut and paste as you please.

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