What is in this article?:
- USDA steps toward Europeanization
- Farmers lose either way
- The USDA took a step toward Europeanization when it delayed the approval of two crops that will help farmers control weeds and produce more food.
When Americans speculate that the United States is “becoming Europe,” we don’t mean that our art museums are getting a lot better.
Instead, we worry about the encroachments of a growing bureaucracy that is smothering freedom and innovation.
Recently, in an unexpected announcement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture took an unfortunate step toward Europeanization when it delayed the approval of two crops that will help farmers control weeds and produce more food. The decision didn’t receive much immediate attention outside the agricultural press, but it sent a troubling signal about the future of farm technology that should concern all Americans.
At the heart of the controversy lie a couple of time-tested herbicides: dicamba and 2,4-D. Scientists have figured out a way for staple crops such as corn, soybeans, and cotton to resist these chemicals, which means that farmers can control weeds without hurting the plants they’re trying to grow.
This is hardly a radical development. As the USDA acknowledged last week, these herbicides “have been safely and widely used across the country since the 1960s.” My father was using 2,4-D even before that, in the 1950s. It was the first herbicide he ever applied to his fields. It’s also one of the top ingredients in the weed-and-feed formulas that Americans apply to their lawns and gardens.
So why the sudden delay? Environmentalists complained that the introduction of these new crops will lead to the overuse of the two herbicides. This claim is at best unproven. Farmers certainly must pay attention to the development of herbicide resistance in weeds, but the answer to this problem is the advent of new technologies that keep us one step ahead of weed adaptations.
In other words, these new crops are part of the solution—and keeping safe products away from farmers just makes it harder for us to grow the food our country needs.
Farmers rely on effective methods of crop protection, including weed control. With them, we can grow more food on less land—and thereby reduce the pressure to convert wilderness into farmland. Environmentalists ought to join farmers in search of new conservation technologies, not oppose us in their safe implementation.
Of greater concern to me is the fact that the Center for Food Safety had threatened to sue the USDA if it didn’t perform an environmental impact study on its own initiative. These traits had already been under review by USDA for 3 years with no evidence of potential harm to humans or the environment. Using litigation to slow down or ban a safe product should concern all of us!