EPA Rejects Petition to Ban ‘Weed and Feed’ Herbicide

Published June 5, 2012

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rejected a request by the Natural Resources Defense Council activist group to ban 2,4-D, one of the most effective herbicides on the market.

Important Agricultural Tool

Since the 1940s, 2,4-D has been used in the United States as a herbicide and plant growth regulator. It is currently found in about 600 products registered for agricultural, residential, industrial, and aquatic uses. It is commonly found in “weed and feed” lawn fertilizers because it kills broadleaf weeds, such as clover and dandelion, while preserving grass.

In 2004, the Henry Ford Foundation listed 2,4-D as one of the 75 most important innovations of modern times. The combination of its effectiveness in controlling weeds and lack of toxicity to humans and the environment has made it one of the most reliable tools for modern agriculture.

EPA Conducts Thorough Study

EPA is empowered to ban products if scientific studies show their usage poses unreasonable risks to people or the environment. NRDC in 2008 filed a petition with EPA claiming 2,4-D posed such unreasonable risks. EPA received public comments on the petition and reviewed the scientific evidence before concluding on April 18 of this year 2,4-D poses no such threat.

“During the recent review of the petition from NRDC to revoke the tolerances, EPA evaluated all the data cited by NRDC and new studies submitted to EPA in response to the reregistration decision,” EPA explained in a statement accompanying its decision. “Included in the new studies is a state-of-the-science extended one-generation reproduction study. That study provides an in-depth examination of 2,4-D’s potential for endocrine disruptor, neurotoxic, and immunotoxic effects. This study and EPA’s comprehensive review confirmed EPA’s previous finding that the 2,4-D tolerances are safe.”

“EPA also carefully reviewed NRDC’s request that the Agency cancel all 2,4-D product registrations,” EPA added. “Based on studies addressing endocrine effects on wildlife species and the adequacy of personal protective equipment for workers, the Agency concluded that the science behind our current ecological and worker risk assessments for 2,4-D is sound and there is no basis to change the registrations.”

Petition Posed Grave Risk

Jim Gray, executive director of the Industry Task Force II on 2,4-D Research Data, says this is a major decision and its impact cannot be overestimated.

“The EPA did a very thorough job. This time, they went out of their way to explain how they do a risk assessment and how the concerns of people like the NRDC are accounted for in their risk assessment,” said Gray.

“The length and breadth of the EPA’s response instills a higher level of confidence in the product,” Gray explained. “The 2,4-D compound is used in lots of different herbicides and is one of the few used to treat aquatic weeds. We and our customers think that it is useful and effective. Professional farmers and aerial and ground applicators use it, as well as applicators for military establishments, schools, roads, parks, and golf courses.”

H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, applauded EPA for following sound science in its review process.

“For once, the EPA got it right. They followed the science, which said that if you follow the proper dosage and use the substance appropriately, it is proven safe and poses little or no harm to humans or the environment,” observed Burnett.

“The folks at NRDC are chemophobes, and if they had their way, no manmade chemical would be approved for any use, no matter how beneficial,” Burnett explained.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.