WASHINGTON (AP) — The Agriculture Department has approved the use of genetically modified corn and soybean seeds that are resistant to a popular weed killer.
However, farmers won’t be able to take full advantage of the seeds until the Environmental Protection Agency issues a second ruling allowing the use of Enlist, a new version of the 2,4-D weed killer that’s been around since the 1940s. The EPA has said it will rule this fall on Dow AgroSciences’ application to market the chemical
The agriculture industry has been anxiously awaiting the approvals, as many weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, an herbicide commonly used on corn and soybeans now. Herbicide-resistant seeds introduced in the 1990s allowed farmers to spray fields after their plants emerged, killing the weeds but leaving crops unharmed.
Critics say they are concerned the increased use of 2,4-D could endanger public health and that more study on the chemical is needed. The USDA has said that if both the seeds and herbicide are approved, the use of 2,4-D could increase by an estimated 200 percent to 600 percent by the year 2020.
While the Agriculture Department only oversees the safety of the plants, the EPA oversees the safety of the herbicide for human and environmental health. The agency already has found the chemical safe for the public and agricultural workers.
The department on Wednesday said it had decided to approve the seeds in an online posting first reported by Politico.