Reuters — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it plans to grant approval to a new herbicide developed by Dow AgroSciences that is designed to be used with new genetically-engineered corn and soybeans and combat weed resistance.
The U.S. approvals for Enlist Duo herbicide — and for Enlist corn and soybeans — would free up Dow’s Enlist system for release in Canada, where the necessary approvals have long since been granted.
The new herbicide contains a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate and has been criticized by groups who say commercialization of Enlist will harm the environment and worsen weed resistance problems.
Regulatory approval of the herbicide and crops have been delayed for more than a year after the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which must grant approval of the crops genetically engineered to be tolerant of Enlist Duo, were inundated with pleas to reject Dow’s applications.
USDA said in January it was prepared to grant approval and is expected to finalize that decision in the next few months.
On Wednesday, the EPA said it too was prepared to grant approval and would accept public comments for 30 days on its decision. The EPA said it would impose requirements on Dow, including “robust monitoring and reporting to EPA,” grower education and remediation, and it would “allow EPA to take swift action to impose additional restrictions on the manufacturer and the use of the pesticide if resistance develops.”
The original 2,4-D-and-glyphosate-tolerant Enlist corn and soybean traits were approved in Canada for food, feed, and environmental release in October 2012, but Dow has held them back from Canadian commercial release pending U.S. approval, “out of respect for movement of grain between the two countries.”
From an export marketing standpoint, if Enlist products were released in Canada before U.S. approvals are obtained, Canadian growers could be left unable to ship their Enlist corn south — although the bulk of Canadian corn is consumed domestically, either by livestock or in ethanol production.
The Enlist Duo herbicide combo is also already approved in Canada, where the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) cleared it in May 2013.
Health Canada has also already approved the next-generation “Enlist E3″ trait stack in soybeans, which adds glufosinate herbicide tolerance to the Enlist genetic package. Glufosinate is best known as the active ingredient in Bayer CropScience’s Liberty line of herbicides.
Dow AgroSciences developed what it calls the Enlist Weed Control System at a point when over 86 per cent of corn, soybean and cotton growers in the U.S. South and 61 per cent in the U.S. Midwest reported hard-to-control weeds on their farms, the company said.
“Enlist Duo herbicide will help solve the weed control challenges growers are facing and will be another option to further reduce the potential for development of herbicide-resistant weeds,” said Damon Palmer, Dow’s commercial leader for the U.S. market.
Dow officials have said Enlist corn and soybeans should be on the market by 2015 — roughly two years after the initial target launch date. Enlist cotton should follow them at some point in the future, they added.
— Carey Gillam is a Reuters correspondent covering agriculture and agribusiness from Kansas City. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.