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Coalition forms to monitor Dow deregulation plans

A group of Midwestern fruit and vegetable producers, canners and food processors today announced the formation of a Save Our Crops Coalition to monitor regulatory actions surrounding Dow AgroScience’s plans to seek deregulation of its genetically engineered corn, soybean and cotton crops that tolerate applications of the 2,4-D herbicide.

The coalition, whose members include companies that sell under the names Del Monte, Red Gold and Seneca, will be managed by Washington attorney John Bode. It maintains that it wants to prevent crop damage that could result from “off-target” exposure to the herbicides 2,4-D and dicamba.

“These herbicides have been known to drift and volatilize to cause damage to plants over 10 miles away from the point of application,” the coalition said in a news release, expressing concern that deregulation would increase use.

“In the areas of corn, soybean and cotton production, the threat is substantial to home gardens and specialty crops like tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans, peas, squash, pumpkins, melons, grapes and other fruits,” the group said.

The Save Our Crops Coalition said it is not opposed to plant technology advances, particularly genetic modification, however it does oppose regulatory actions that would result in herbicide use that causes substantial injury to non-target crops. It plans to present its concerns to the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The potential for a 600 percent increase in synthetic-auxin herbicide use threatens the survival of the specialty crop production in the Midwest. While we are not opposed to new technology itself, the widespread use of dicamba and 2,4-D is a threat to our business,” said Steve Smith of Red Gold, an Indiana-based food processor.

Dow AgriScience said it was disappointed to learn about the coalition’s claims.

“We have engaged in active outreach for the last several years with growers, their organizations, academics in related fields, and with regulators who are involved with the crops of concern to SOCC,” Dow said in a news release.

“Although this new coalition has expressed itself in an adversarial mode, Dow AgroSciences continues to be aligned with the basic objectives of its members, and we are committed to delivering new solutions addressing their concerns through new technology and stewardship,” it said.

“Surely, there is a better way to address the concerns expressed by the members of this new coalition than for one group of concerned farm stakeholders to try denying access to tools that are urgently anticipated and needed by their neighbors. We are still open to dialogue with all interested stakeholders and would prefer to unite agriculture, not see it divided against itself.”