10 May 2013 23:30 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--US Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials said on Friday the agency is going to conduct two separate environmental impact assessments on the proposed biotech crops being developed by Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto.
A wave of criticism has come forth over concerns that the new herbicides associated with the products will increase weed resistance problems.
The two companies have been seeking to secure regulatory approval for their new herbicide tolerant corn variety labelled "Enlist" on the market by this year or next at the latest. From their perspective, the seed variety will give farmers new technology needed to maximise potential yields.
Currently the standard bearer in crop herbicide protection comes from Monsanto in the form of Roundup Ready varieties. These allow agricultural producers to spray the glyphosate-based chemical over crops such as corn and cotton, effectively killing weed populations without damaging the crop.
But that method has come under criticism from environmental and public health activists who have asserted there is a link between the herbicide and long-term health problems such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
However, Monsanto officials have repeatedly answered those allegations by pointing out that the popular brand has been extensively studied by the company. Prior chemical remedies were found to be not as safe as Roundup has been proven to be, officials said.
The new products that Dow and Monsanto want to get on the market will be the first that are genetically modified to handle applications of the products 2,4-D and dicamba herbicide. Dow’s variety would be for the 2,4-D applications, while Monsanto is developing dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton.
Dow AgroSciences spokesperson Kenda Friend said it is disappointing news for the company and farmers, but the company hopes that it will win the approval needed.
“They have had a long time to look at the information. This is something that farmers are going to lose from,” said Friend.
For their part Monsanto said it is ready to assist the USDA inquiry and hopes that soon it will be granted regulatory approval.
“US farmers tell us they need these critical technologies to help manage tough to control weeds on their farms to maximise yield potential and meet the world’s growing demands,” said Lisa Safarian, Monsanto spokesperson.
“While unexpected, we’ll use this timing to broaden the development of high yielding varieties that we’ll ultimately be able to deliver to the farm.”
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