A wire-service article on page eight of the Jan. 3 U-B, “USDA opens door to new herbicide-resistant seeds,” is a good example of how a news story can slant opinion to favor the reporter’s biases. The story is about Monsanto’s corn seeds genetically engineered to resist the weed killer 2,4-D.
The reporter states that 2,4-D was an ingredient in Agent Orange and the implication is that farmers will now be allowed to spray corn with an important part of this controversial herbicide.
What he fails to say is that 2,4-D was the innocent ingredient in Agent Orange. The culprit that poisoned so many soldiers and Vietnamese was 2,4,5-T contaminated with the very toxic dioxin TCDD. The other factor making it so poisonous was that the military applied the herbicide at 13 times the rate allowed in the U.S.
Monsanto, one of the manufacturers supplying the military, warned the generals that it contained high levels of TCDD, but the military didn’t care because it was going on the enemy. We all know how the story ended.
The TCDD contaminate resulted from excessively high temperatures during manufacture. For use as a brush killer in the U.S., 2,4,5-T was manufactured using low temperature so as to reduce contamination with TCDD to near zero. For the military, the herbicide was manufactured at high temperatures because that was a much cheaper process, thus contaminating it with TCDD.
In 1970 the USDA banned the use of 2,4,5-T on all food crops except rice, and in 1985 the EPA banned all remaining uses, mainly due, I think, to its association with Agent Orange.
The anti-pesticide crowd has tried for years to get 2,4-D banned, but hundreds of studies over the past 50-plus years have proved its safety and effectiveness. Its mode of action is as an auxin that promotes growth, and at very, very low rates that’s all it does. Used as a herbicide, susceptible plants essentially “grow” themselves to death.
I hope when future stories appear about an ingredient of Agent Orange now being applied to corn because of genetic engineering you can make a more informed judgment.