Voices from across American agriculture have united in strong support of new technology they say is urgently needed for the nation’s farms. Farmers, weed scientists, specialty crop growers, members of Congress, state legislators and the public provided comments and more than 15,000 petition signatures to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in support of Enlist corn and soybeans. USDA has now closed its comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Enlist corn and soybean traits. The comment period for the Enlist DEIS drew very high support numbers—among the highest in recent history for a new biotechnology product. USDA also held a virtual public meeting on Jan. 29 for the Enlist corn and soybean traits, during which growers, representatives from state agribusiness councils and a university scientist testified in support of the technology. “The agricultural community simply must be engaged when it comes to advocating for new technology,” says Alan Kemper, former president, American Soybean Association. “This show of support for Enlist is extraordinary, and it’s exactly what we need if American farmers are to have the tools we need to steward our land for generations to come.”
USDA produced an extensive Draft EIS document with a well-supported environmental evaluation of the Enlist corn and soybean traits. It also considered existing farming practices and several potential alternatives. USDA noted in the DEIS that its Preferred Alternative is to approve Enlist corn and soybean crops. “We appreciate the significant effort from USDA to produce this comprehensive review of the Enlist corn and soybean traits,” says Antonio Galindez, president and CEO, Dow AgroSciences. “The conclusion of this comment period marks an important milestone for Enlist. We’re one step closer to helping American farmers solve the tremendous challenge they’re facing to control weeds.”
In his comment to USDA, Stanley Culpepper, Ph.D., weed scientist, University of Georgia, articulated the need for new weed control tools and the role Enlist will play. “The use of 2,4-D to assist in the management of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth would have instant and monumental impact in cotton and soybean production,” he said.
Thousands of farmers also wrote letters of support or signed petitions. A coalition of eight growers representing Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio submitted a joint letter to USDA. While their weed control challenges, cultural practices, and operations range in size and scope, the growers were fully aligned in expressing why USDA’s deregulation of Enlist is critical to modern agriculture. “Technologies such as Enlist will allow us to continue to provide the safe and abundant food supply that this country and the world ask us to produce,” the eight-grower coalition said in their comment. “And to do so using environmentally friendly practices that allow us to continue the conservation practices we value … which protect our vital soil and water resources.”
A preliminary review of comments posted to the docket thus far indicate no new questions have been raised that haven’t been addressed in the DEIS or the environmental assessments previously conducted by USDA on the Enlist corn and soybean traits. USDA is expected to review the comments it has received in the coming weeks, then will issue a Final Environmental Impact Statement. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will open a comment period for Enlist Duo™ herbicide in the coming weeks.
Pending regulatory approvals, Dow AgroSciences expects to launch Enlist corn and soybeans in 2015, with cotton to follow.