Watch Out For “Agent Orange” Drift

By Brad Jordan

USDA could approve new genetically engineered corn treated with a chemical almost identical to Agent Orange

Agent Orange was the chemical spray used to destroy 39,000 square miles of Vietnamese agriculture, kill 400,000 people, and cause half a million birth defects during the Vietnam War.

If the USDA approves a new type of genetically modified corn, then the herbicide “2,4-D” – half of the chemical concoction found in Agent Orange – will shower US farms far and wide.

2,4-D aims to destroy weeds that have become resistant to Round-Up Ready fertilizer. Glyphosate – the main ingredient found in Round-Up – used to be sufficient kill these pesky weeds but, thanks to natural selection, the weeds have adapted to this toxic chemical, by forming into bigger, stronger, and harder to kill superweeds.


So, instead of reconsidering the wisdom of the ever-escalating battle against nature, Dow AgroSciences decided to up the ante and go all-in with the more powerful and destructive 2,4-D.

Dow has engineered GM corn and soy specifically designed to withstand this potent chemical, which unfortunately is being used in small amounts already. However, if the USDA approves the new “Agent-Orange-Ready” corn – and eventually soy – 2,4-D could become the new “Round-Up” in fertilization. Currently the chemical must be used sparingly, in certain seasons, or it would kill the cash crops along with the weeds. If the “super” corn is approved, 2,4-D will be applied regularly. With Dow expecting to generate over a billion in sales upon approval, one has to ask – is the reward greater than the risk?

Health Impact

Thirty-five medical and public health professionals and 140 advocacy groups have signed a letter warning the USDA of health risks associated with the potential massive increase in 2,4-D use.

2,4-D has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other negative side effects include: skin sores, liver damage, hormonal imbalance and lowered sperm counts.

The French National Institute for Agricultural Research added, “That following 2, 4-D treatment, 2,4-D-tolerant plants may not be acceptable for human consumption.”

Orange Haze

In a recent interview with Food Riot Radio, Judith McGeary – a Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader for Austin, Texas, attorney, farmer, and the Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance – points out that even if you try to avoid eating these types of foods, the gaseous “drift” from the once-liquid spray could find its way onto your property, destroying tomato plants or pecan trees in its way.

McGeary said that because it’s a volatile substance, it can transform from a liquid to a gas, and then travel within a 5-mile radius from where it was sprayed. Just imagine if you lived in a neighborhood bordering one of these farms.

Because of its ability to drift, 2,4-D is 400 times more likely than Round-Up to cause damage to crops it wasn’t intended for. What if there were 30 farms in the same area and 2,4-D was wafting around each one of them, destroying your organic crops? It would be hard to pinpoint who to sue, if all the mega farmers around you were doing it.

While having a devastating effect on local farms and land, the EPA also found it to be “very highly toxic to slightly toxic to freshwater and marine invertebrates.”

Take Action

If you’re concerned and want to let the USDA know how you feel, then click here.You have until February 24th to submit your comments and questions.

The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund – a non-profit organization dedicated to defending the rights and broadening the freedoms of family farms and protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods – has recommended the following steps before submitting:
  • Write your comment ahead of time and save it on your computer. Because there is a time limit when using the Federal Register System, you may get timed out if you write your comment from scratch. 
  • If your comment is less than one page (5000 characters including spaces), you can copy and paste it directly into the “Comment” box. 
  • If your comment is longer, write “see attached” instead and UPLOAD a separate document with your comments, such as a Word or PDF file. 
  • The “Comment” box counts the characters and spaces so you’ll know if your comment is more than 5000 characters 
Click on the link below to hear our full discussion on “Agent Orange” Corn and the Farm Bill.
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