NRDC has filed a petition calling on EPA to cancel the registration of Dow’s next generation herbicide Enlist Duo. Anyone who has been following the saga of this herbicide knows what a roller coaster ride it has been. EPA approved Enlist Duo—a combination herbicide containing glyphosate and 2,4 D for use on newly genetically engineered corn and soy plants in the fall of 2014. NRDC sued immediately arguing that EPA violated the law because it had not adequately considered the effect that Enlist Duo would have on public health and the environment—particularly monarch butterflies which have been in steep decline in large part because of the overuse of glyphosate products like Roundup. A year later, just as the lawsuit was about to be heard in court, EPA filed a most unusual motion asking the court to allow them to withdraw (or “vacate”) their own approval of Enlist Duo.
EPA argued that it had discovered new information and that it no longer could be confident of its assessment of Enlist Duo. Specifically, in its court filing the agency wrote, “EPA cannot be sure, without a full analysis of the new information, that the current registration does not cause unreasonable effects to the environment.” These revelations are shocking. In addition to not having fully considered the effects of Enlist Duo on public health and the environment that we pointed out, the EPA was admitting that Enlist Duo may not be safe for use.
Dow opposed EPA’s request to the court suggesting instead that the court “remand” the registration back to EPA for further evaluation rather than “vacate” the registration altogether thereby leaving the registration in effect. In its court documents Dow voluntarily agreed “to stop sales of Enlist Duo” while EPA reevaluated the herbicide. Ultimately, the court denied EPA’s request to vacate its registration of Enlist Duo siding with Dow’s request for a remand. Immediately after the court ruled Dow reneged on its offer to suspend sales saying, “It was never agreed to.” As a result, Enlist Duo remains on the market today.
Additional developments in the past year have only added to the environmental and public health concerns of Enlist Duo. For example, last fall and investigative article in the Chicago Tribune revealed that EPA had changed its interpretation of a key study of 2,4 D that paved the way for 41 times more of the chemical to enter the American diet than was previously allowed. Independently, the World Health Organization issued updated assessments of both glyphosate and 2,4 D concluding that they were probable and possible carcinogens, respectively.
Despite the court not allowing the EPA to withdraw its registration of Enlist Duo, EPA still has the authority to cancel the registration through the administrative process. Given the mounting evidence against the herbicide along with EPA’s own admission that it may not be safe for the environment, EPA should immediately initiate cancellation proceedings for Enlist Duo. Such an action would surely be opposed by Dow much as Bayer is currently opposing the cancellation of flubendiamide. However, EPA’s mandate is to protect human health and the environment and the agency needs to be prepared to stand up to pesticide manufacturers in order to fulfill their mission. EPA has said it wants to withdraw their approval of Enlist Duo. The agency can and should do just that by cancelling Enlist Duo immediately.