A new buzzword aimed at skewing long-established farming practice has popped up, this time causing people to question the safety of the corn now growing in fields across America.
CBS’s morning news show aired a segment this morning on “Agent Orange Corn,” a new herbicide produced by Dow Chemical intended to kill the “super weeds” that have taken over corn fields across the country. Other media sources have also covered the issue.
The controversy was started and has been stoked by Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, which contains 2, 4-D, while serving in the country in the mid 1960s. The herbicide was used to kills grasses and leaves that covered much of the Vietnam countryside, exposing people and places on the ground.
Many Vietnam veterans have attempted to link their exposure to Agent Orange to cancer, birth defects and skin rashes. A definite link has never been proven and according to the American Cancer Society, “in most cases, neither type of study provides definitive evidence on its own.”
Now the powerful 2, 4-D chemical is being used in herbicides to kill weeds that have grown tolerant to other types of weed control systems. These weeds are often referred to “super weeds,” and invade fields, reducing yields and drawing valuable nutrients and moisture from the soil.
Dow, who produces the 2,4-D herbicide, has also announced its intentions to develop a corn variety that would be resistant to 2,4-D, allowing farmers to spray their corn fields at all points in the growing cycle, without damaging their crops. Currently the 2,4-D herbicide can only be used at the start or very end of the growing cycle.
As media outlets have begun reporting on the new herbicide, people have begun questioning the safety of their food. Sadly, no accurate answers are provided and people are forming their own, inaccurate opinions. So let me bring you the accurate facts, straight from the corn fields of Central Kansas.
– All herbicides and seed varieties used in our fields MUST be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before it can be sold for public use. That is the same rule that covers any other food and beverage released for public consumption. If it’s not safe, it doesn’t hit the store shelves.
– Farmers across the country currently use similar forms of herbicide and herbicide-resistant seeds – such as Round Up and Round-Up Ready Corn to defeat weeds. The 2,4-D herbicide is no different in technology and use. We, like most farmers, have used herbicides and herbicide-resistant seed for several years and been able to substantially improve our yields, producing more food for fewer dollars – that is vital as people demand affordable food sources.
– To date, no deaths have been linked to herbicide use on plants. In fact, many backyard farmers use the same practice to keep their produce and vegetables safe from bugs and invasive weeds.
– Weeds are unwanted trespassers in our fields. They pull valuable moisture from the soil and can stunt the growth of crops. Traditional farmers, such as my husband and his father, do not only rely on herbicides to remove weeds but also use the tractor and disc to till under the weeds and manually pull them from the ground – like a gardener would do with his rototiller or hoe. Ask my husband and he will tell you that uncontrolled weeds in a corn field would have a “major” effect on yields for that corn. That means less food for both people and our animals.
– As the population of the U.S. and entire world grows, it remains vital that farmers have access to the tools and resources that allow them to produce more food using fewer acres and inputs. That means new advances in seed technology, pesticide and herbicide use, irrigation and harvest practices.
– We, as farmers and ranchers, aim to provide a safe and healthy food supply. We would never use a product or produce a crop that was not safe for human consumption. If you have questions or want to see for yourself, make your way to our farm. We are glad to show you around!