Several recent developments in the pesticide area represent disturbing examples of how the environmentalists pay little attention to scientific facts. As a result, several pesticides and genetically modified organism (GMO) corn hybrids are under increased fire from lawyers and governmental agencies that could impact no-tillers.

  • In early April, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to end its approval of 2,4-D. Introduced more than 60 years ago, the group contends it disrupts estrogen and testosterone levels in humans, which leads to human reproduction and child brain development concerns.

Unfortunately, some sources indicate the EPA may be listening, even though the government agency re-approved 2,4-D 18 months ago and there is no new evidence of concerns. While farm groups believe there is no cost-effective replacement, the NRDC maintains that shifting to no-till (already one of the biggest users of 2,4-D), pulling weeds by hand or using glyphosate could be logical substitutes.

  • A class-action lawsuit filed in 2004 to ban the use of atrazine in a sanitary district in Illinois continues to be battled in the courts by Syngenta Crop Protection lawyers. Since both U.S. and Illinois government agencies have a standard for atrazine levels in drinking water of 3 parts per billion — a level that carries a 1,000-fold safety factor — Syngenta maintains local agencies should not set different standards. Atrazine was re-registered in 2006 after a 12-year safety review.
  • In mid-April, Germany banned Monsanto’s MON810 GMO Bt corn, deeming it a danger to the environment. This occurred despite the fact that the European Union ruled in 2004 that the strain was safe for planting. France, Greece, Austria and Hungary have also banned the strain, maintaining that it can damage the environment.

Monsanto recently filed suit against the German government, stating that this ruling violates European Union rules. The company says the Bt corn strain has been approved by the European Union for use in animal feed since 1998 and in Germany since 2005.

  • A January judiciary ruling that would require permits for pesticide users, even if pesticides were applied in compliance with labeling laws, is being appealed. The original judges ruled that the EPA should require Clean Water Act permits for pesticide application near water.

Based on these concerns, it appears environmentalist groups still aren’t willing to accept scientific findings when it doesn’t meet their particular agendas. Instead, they’re pushing for unnecessary changes that don’t make sense to no-tillers and the entire ag community and will lead to higher costs or a reduction in crop production.

Is it only a coincidence that these efforts have escalated in the first 100 days of President Obama’s term?

Regardless of the outcome of these situations, the big winners will likely be the lawyers who will be able to bill millions of dollars.