This week USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) approved the deregulation of Dow AgroSciences new corn and soybean varieties that are 2,4-D resistant. This is major step in the right direction for all of US agriculture in that our farmers will have one more tool in fighting weeds. The Georgia Cotton Commission supports the use of new technologies to help our farmers combat weeds. We look forward to seeing this and other new technologies in the future to give our growers a range of options to manage weeds on the their farms. But, it is still not 100% certain that these new 2,4-D crops will be available since the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) still has to deregulate the new formulations of 2,4-D used on these crops. For those not familiar with how new traits and pesticides are introduced, I’ll do my best to explain below and clear up confusion of how the process works.
First, agricultural companies have to find a select for specific traits in the lab to get the desirable outcome they want. Then to plant these new varieties in the field for testing the companies have to get approval from the USDA. It is my understanding that this is not a very long process and their are many products approved to be tested that never make it to commercial status. These are commonly referred to as “regulated plots/trails.” Then after many years of testing, the company has to petition the USDA-APHIS to deregulate the particular trait that is to be in the new planned varieties. This used to only take about a year but now it is much longer. Dow first sent their petition for deregulation to APHIS in October 2011. Now, in September 2014, they have finally approved the deregulation. This new lengthy process is mainly because the USDA is signalling that it will do an Environmental Assessment or conduct and Environmental Impact Study on all new traits introduced. Hence, the three year waiting period.
After APHIS finally approves of the new traits, then EPA has to approve of the new pesticide that is applied to this trait. In this case it is the herbicide 2,4-D. EPA will not deregulate a product before APHIS deregulates the trait. EPA takes into consideration the findings of APHIS in their assessment for deregulation, but they also have their own process and requirements to be met before approval is granted.
So that’s where we stand today. The reason all this is important for cotton farmers is that Monsanto is going through the same process as Dow except with their new cotton traits. Monsanto plans to have new Deltapine dicamba-resistant varieties on the market in 2015. They are in the stage of getting APHIS to approve the traits, then they will have to wait on EPA to approve the new formulation of dicamba. If all goes as planned, Georgia cotton farmers will see new dicamba-resistant varieties on the market in 2015 and new 2,4-D varieties on the market in 2016. We support the deregulation of these new technologies because they offer our farmers valuable tools in the constant battle against weeds.