2,4-D Herbicide, a chemical used in Agent Orange, could fuel the upsurge of Enlist Crops in the American Market

Agent Orange was used by American forces to destroy forests and farms in Vietnam. Herbicidal warfare is not new but it was during the Vietnam war when it was employed on a massive scale for the first time.
Agent Orange was used by American forces to destroy forests and farms in Vietnam. Herbicidal warfare is not new but it was during the Vietnam war when it was employed on a massive scale for the first time.

The Agent Orange made a mark in history owing to the employment of the chemical during the Vietnam War. It is one of the nine Rainbow Herbicides used to raze forests and farmlands all over Vietnam.

Historically, herbicidal warfare had been carried out. But, it was during the Vietnam War when such drastic tactic was applied in such massive propensity for the first time.

Agent Orange, which was supplied by Monsanto and Dow Chemical, was a mixture of two chemicals. These include the 2,4,5-T and the 2,4-D. The former was phased out due to its high levels of toxicity more than three decades ago. The latter one, on the other hand, continues to be produced on an industrial scale. It is also the most widely used herbicide in the global market.

While the 2,4-D has the negative “tag” attached to it due to the destructive role of the Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, it surprisingly offers many benefits to the modern agricultural sector.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is reviewing a recommendation to allow Enlist corn and soybean varieties produced by Dow AgroSciences to be in distribution in the market. These varieties, which are genetically modified, are found to be resistant to the herbicide. Yet, since they are GMO’s, many consumers remain wary of the components which have been used as complements to the varieties.

However, consumers of these products are assured that 2,4-D does not have the toxic properties found in 2,4,5-T which was used as its pair to make the Agent Orange. The former is also not Agent Orange so it is also safe for human consumption. The latter should be the cause for the worry of consumers because it is found to produce highly carcinogenic compounds known as dioxins. So, they should be banned from contaminating food products to be consumed by humans.

To place emphasis, no link was found between 2,4-D and cancer. Furthermore, a review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 stated that “the weight of the evidence does not support a conclusion that (2,4-D compounds) are likely human carcinogens.”

The EPA, some top-ranked environmental academic institutions such as Oregon State University, and other third-party organizations have also reviewed the chemical for several times. The findings of their research all conclude that the relatively mild herbicide is no reason for alarm when ingested. 

The chemical also finds applications not only in agriculture but also in households. The chemical is a component of many household products. It is a known active ingredient of many weed killers such as Scotts TurfBuilder. The product can be found in many cabinets of many households yet an opposition to the safety of the Scotts product is yet to be heard even if components of the weed killer are bound to get into the hands of users.

Enlist crop varieties are also found to be safe if and when they are approved in the United States. It is reported that the varieties will be planted in Canada this year.

The USDA furthermore believes that Enlist crops would result positively in the agricultural sector because farmers will adopt less “aggressive tillage strategies”. According to Nathanael Johnson of Grist, these accustomed agricultural practices are known to release greenhouse gases and contribute to water pollution and topsoil erosion.

While the agency acknowledged that the approval of the recommendation would lead to “another two fold to six fold increase” in the use of 2,4-D by 2020, the use of Enlist crops will benefit the American farmers in their management of resistant weeds.

The Motley Fool reports that the use of 2,4-D from Dow and glyphosphate from Monsanto in efficient alternating patterns from one harvest to another will lead to the effective reduction of the emergence of resistant weeds compared to the use of the mono-herbicide approach.

Shareholders of Dow AgroSciences are delighted with the growing potential demand for their major products including Enlist corn and soybean varieties. The EPA is currently reviewing the new formulation of herbicide called Enlist Duo which was newly developed by the company to complement the crop varieties aforementioned.

Already, the Roundup Ready crops and Roundup herbicide pair of Monsanto has reportedly been making a good performance in the market– an indication which might spell well for Dow in terms of growth especially that 2,4-D has already received the acceptance of quite a wide market.

Investors are also positively anticipating the products from Dow. Although Dow AgroSciences is only part and partial of The Dow Chemical Company, it is also known to be one of three companies that produces 2,4-D on a global scale.

Both the approval of the USDA and EPA are required before the Enlist products are released to the market. Each of the regulatory agency will employ their set standards to scrutinize and evaluate the products before they are given a go. Still, consumers should place their paranoia at bay given the years of safe use of the 2,4-D in the industrial agriculture sector.

Fierce oppositions to the new biotech crops have already been ignited by anti-GMO groups especially associating the products to the chemical component used in one of history’s most tragic wars.

Yet, both shareholders and investors are optimistic.



Siegphyl is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE