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EPA approval of Dow herbicide violates law, critics charge

By Carey Gillam

Oct 15 (Reuters) - U.S. regulatory approval granted Wednesday to Dow AgroSciences' new herbicide to be used with new genetically modified crops, outraged critics who say the approval violates environmental law and will create a host of problems for people and animals.

The Environmental Protection Agency gave final approval on Wednesday to Dow's Enlist Duo herbicide developed to be used with Dow's Enlist GMO corn and soybeans. [ID: L2N0S51LR]

In announcing the decision, EPA said it had thoroughly evaluated the risks, including those for endangered species, that come with what is expected to be a large increase in the use of the chemical agent 2,4-D, which is an active ingredient of Enlist Duo.

But EarthJustice, and other pesticide, farm and consumer groups said the approval falls short of requirements under at least two federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, and could face a legal challenge.

"EPA has not followed the law," said Greg Loarie, an attorney with Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law organization that is evaluating legal action to try to stop the commercialization of Enlist Duo.

"In their view, a massive increase in the use of 2,4-D will have no impact on endangered species. They are supposed to consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They did not."

Loarie said EPA also failed to fully follow the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by ensuring that pesticides will not have an "unreasonable adverse impact" on human health or the environment.

"This is a decision that is really momentous," said Loarie. "It is a huge threat."

EPA officials had no immediate comment on how they had evaluated risks to endangered species or if they complied with FIFRA. But the agency said in announcing the decision that a host of restrictions it was placing on use of the herbicide would protect people and animals, including endangered species.

The herbicide was developed by Dow, a unit of Dow Chemical , to help farmers with severe weed problems hurting U.S. crop production. Many weeds have become resistant to glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide, developed by Dow rival Monsanto Co. and used widely by cotton, corn and soybean farmers.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave final approval to Dow's Enlist corn and soybeans, which the company engineered to tolerate being sprayed with Enlist Duo herbicide. Farmers who plant Enlist crops can spray their fields with Enlist herbicide, killing weeds but not the crops.

Dow has said years of research show the new herbicide is safe.

But over the last several months, thousands of comments have poured into EPA urging denial of Enlist Duo, including warnings from a group of physicians and scientists who said 2,4-D can be linked to health problems that include suppressed immune function and greater risk of Parkinson's disease.

The USDA has estimated that the use of 2,4-D will triple by 2020, compared to current usage.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Mo.; Editing by Frances Kerry)