Back in October, EPA approved a new pesticide, Enlist Duo, which combines glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup) with another powerful weed killer called 2,4 D in six states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin). NRDC filed a lawsuit challenging EPA's approval of Enlist Duo because it will wreak further destruction on monarch butterfly populations already devastated by agricultural chemicals and because the pesticide poses risks to human health. However, rather than acknowledge the shortcomings of its approval of Enlist Duo, the EPA recently expanded its approval to an additional nine states (Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma and North Dakota). Today, NRDC is challenging that decision as well.
Enlist Duo is designed to be used in conjunction with genetically modified corn and soy crops that have been engineered to withstand the application of the powerful pesticide, much like how its predecessor Roundup was designed to be used on genetically modified Roundup Ready crops. However, the widespread use of Roundup (glyphosate) over the years has led to the widespread destruction of milkweed, a native wildflower that monarch caterpillars depend on. The monarch population that famously migrates across the US each year has dropped by 90% since the late 1990s when Roundup Ready crops were adopted. Although large quantities of milkweed have largely been eliminated, other weeds have developed a resistance to glyphosate and are now known as "super weeds." Dow AgroSciences has responded by developing new genetically engineered corn and soybeans that are resistant to both glyphosate and 2,4-D. The US Department of Agriculture predicts Enlist Duo could result in as much as a six-fold increase in the use of 2,4-D, a herbicide developed in the 1940s that has been linked to health impacts in humans, including decreased fertility, birth defects and thyroid problems. Additionally, glyphosate, the other ingredient in Enlist Duo, was recently classified as a "probable carcinogen" by the World Health Organization.
EPA's mission is to safeguard the environment and human health - however, its decision to approve Enlist Duo does neither. Enlist Duo will only further contribute to the dramatic decline of monarch butterflies and poses significant risks to human health. The approval of Enlist Duo - and its expansion across the US - is a step in the wrong direction for wildlife, for farmers and for public health. We need to get off the unsustainable path of increasingly toxic pesticides and move in the direction of truly sustainable farming solutions.