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Genetically modified crops spur debate, calls for labeling

A debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is raging across the country from farms to the federal government. A company called Dow Chemical is on the verge of getting approval for a new genetically engineered corn that’s supposed to be immune to the chemical weedkiller “2,4-D” – a primary component of Agent Orange, the New York Times reported.

Environmental advocates call the chemical a carcinogen that’s also linked to birth defects, dubbing the product “Agent Orange Corn” and saying it has no place near food grown in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says Agent Orange exposure for soldiers during their military service has been tied to diseases such as amlyoidosis, hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer, several types of respiratory cancers, and other conditions. The VA Department also recognizes birth defects such as spina bifida tied to Agent Orange and other herbacides.

The Times however reported that most experts agree that the harm from Agent Orange was caused primarily by its other ingredient, 2,4,5-T, which was taken off the market years ago. The Environmental Protection Agency also rejected a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council to take the weedkiller off the market earlier this month, saying it was safe.

The victims of Agent Orange do not deserve “to have their tragedy exploited in an irresponsible way,” Steve Savage, an agricultural consultant wrote in his blog, Applied Mythology, the Times reported.

Farmers, scientists and consumer groups scheduled a news conference on Thursday to urge U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to shut down Dow’s regulatory application, Reuters reported. Some health advocates have also urged the USDA to reject Dow’s application.

“Many studies show that 2,4-D exposure is associated with various forms of cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, nerve damage, hormone disruption and birth defects,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, told Reuters. “USDA must take these significant risks seriously and reject approval of this crop.”

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