Corn created by Dow to be resistant to 2,4-D herbicide has not been tested for human safety; chefs say it threatens crops in the DC metro area, including Maryland and Virginia
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Yesterday the Vietnam Veterans of America, preparing to observe the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War, called on President Obama to take strong and serious action regarding one of the newest genetically engineered crops pending approval at the USDA. The new corn seed has been created by Dow to be resistant to Dow's herbicide product 2,4-D, an earlier formulation of which comprised 50% of the Vietnam era toxin "Agent Orange." Today in Washington, DC Nora Pouillon, chef and owner of Restaurant Nora -- America's first certified organic restaurant -- joined with other leading chefs to support the veterans and ask for the vigilance of lawmakers.
Pouillon explained, "As chefs committed to making local and sustainable food available to Washington area residents, we are calling on the USDA, the FDA, the EPA, the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House to use all necessary caution before rushing this new invention to market." Ms. Pouillon believes this new crop highlights the lack of adequate consumer protection in our national food safety policies. "American servicemen and women have a tragic history with chemicals like 2,4-D. We are grateful that they are calling attention to how little American consumers really know about what is in our food -- and the fact that we all have a right to know. This new genetically engineered crop has not been subjected to any independent studies for human safety, nor has it yet been approved for cultivation in any other country. In addition, it poses a real and documented threat to the harvests of many of our wonderful specialty growers in Maryland and Virginia."
Todd and Ellen Gray of Equinox Restaurant have played a key role over many years in developing the DC region's reputation for outstanding dining with local ingredients. Ellen Kassoff Gray has written a personal letter to First Lady Michelle Obama, with whom she and her husband have collaborated on food projects. The letter concludes with Ms. Gray's request: "Please use the power of your position and the strength of your integrity to ask the necessary questions about this new corn invention. Encourage independent analysis and testing over at least several years so we don't rush to a decision. We have a right to know with more certainty if this new seed designed to be used with 2,4-D herbicide poses a risk to our families, farmers and environment that far outweigh any benefit to ordinary Americans."
The chefs speaking out have been in the DC area long enough to understand that advocates and lobbyists may debate for years whether this newer form of the 2,4-D chemical is safer than the earlier version that was in Agent Orange. However, one thing that independent scientists and Dow both agree on is that this new crop will cause a dramatic increase in the sale and use of the potent 2,4-D herbicide. Advocacy groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council have cited numerous studies linking 2,4-D exposure to serious illnesses and cancers, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Rob Weland of Cork, who is planting an organic garden behind his restaurant, elaborates on Nora's concern about our local farmers and gardeners in Maryland and Virginia "Within 100 miles of our restaurant are numerous growers of important fresh specialty crops -- such as tomatoes, strawberries and grapes," explains Weland. The American Association of Pesticide Control Officials rated 2,4-D as the most likely pesticide in use today to cause drift damage to other crops, and can spread miles from where it is applied. With more than a quarter of Maryland's crop acreage allocated to corn, Weland is worried. "The huge increase in 2,4-D use that would accompany these new 2,4-D crops could threaten the livelihood of my producers, and the sustainability of our local Washington, DC food supply." Weland is also concerned about local residents. "Our metro DC area has dense population centers very close to farming regions. If there is even the slightest doubt about the dangers of large-scale 2,4-D use for human health, we need to stop and wait."
Pouillon has reached out to other food leaders in the Washington, DC area to help spread the word -- from internationally recognized culinary innovator Jose Andres to Freshfarm Markets, a large network of farmer's markets in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia. "Jose has long advocated for making healthy food more accessible to America's children, and I am grateful that he agrees with us. Whether it is 'pink slime' in our meat or antibiotics in livestock, Americans are tired of hidden ingredients."
95% of the ingredients used at Restaurant Nora are certified organic, and her customers make the organic choice not only for environmental reasons but also as a health decision. However, Nora is quick to point out that even eating organic cannot prevent our exposure to these chemicals, if they are allowed into our environment in large doses. "The chemicals used to grow many genetically engineered crops contaminate our air, soil and water," Nora explains. "It took decades for the risks of other inventions like DDT and asbestos to be exposed. It is not right to ask Americans to be guinea pigs in another chemical experiment before we have the facts. American farmers can grow the best crops in the world without 2,4-D resistant seeds created in a laboratory."
Normandy International, Alexis Denny Kaufmann, +1-202-558-6967, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE Nora Pouillon