Enlist duo

June 2016

The biotech industry's answer to the huge weed-problem it has inflicted on farms after years of spraying glyphosate weedkiller on biotech seeds, is (predictably) more of the same.  Indeed, packages of dual herbicide formulations plus dual herbicide-tolerant GM seeds are the business now.

Glyphosate weed-killer is still in there, but Dow Chemical has added in '2,4-D' to create ‘Enlist Duo' formulation for spraying its latest generation of GM corn and soya.  '2,4-D' is another decades-old herbicide, and was one of the two major components of the infamous Agent Orange defoliant used to clear the jungle and destroy crops in Vietnam.

Enlist Duo has, so far, been on a rather rocky road.  After approval for use in 15 American States during 2014 and 2015, Dow got caught in its own regulatory manipulations.  When filing its patent, it claimed that glyphosate and 2,4-D worked better in combination. But when oiling the wheels for regulatory approval, it told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the two herbicides didn't affect each other's activity.

So far, Dow has avoided Enlist Duo's withdrawal by abandoning the offending patent and demanding that, if the EPA wants to force it off the market, it must go through the full, lengthy (expensive) legal process (see Box). 

It seems Dow has now managed to review its data and managed to find that the offending herbicide interaction is somehow "not present in the final formulation selected for Enlist Duo".

Less easy for Dow to talk its way out of is that China, a major buyer of US crops, hasn't approved the new GM seed, and US grain elevators won't accept the seed until China approves them.

The EPA has consistently said it believes 2,4-D is safe for humans (including the Vietnamese), clearing the way to allow the herbicide into the American GM diet at forty-one times the level previously considered acceptable.  Its 'belief' seems to be holding firm, despite a 2015 International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) review which found 2,4-D a possible carcinogen (see Box), and despite the fact that the herbicide will be teamed up with glyphosate, a 'probable carcinogen' [1], in Enlist Duo.  Also, both 2,4-D and glyphosate have been linked to kidney problems [2,3].

Text Box

Carol Van Strum describes evidence that contaminants and breakdown products of 2,4-D are carcinogens, and that 2,4-D itself is a cancer promoter in the presence of a carcinogen


Enlist Duo opens up a whole can of worms.  For example ...

All safety evidence provided to regulators is based on pure chemical forms of 2,4-D and of glyphosate.  Questions surrounding the added ingredients in the formulation aren't addressed [4].

Dow stresses that Enlist Duo contains a new version of 2,4-D formulation which is safer for farmers and neighbouring crops.  How much of the data on 2,4-D submitted to the EPA is on new-version 2,4-D and how much is a re-hash of decades old, out-dated studies on old-version 2,4-D.  Put another way, how much cherry-picking has there been between old and new data to extract the 'right' evidence?

Glyphosate and 2,4-D may or may not act synergistically to kill weeds better, but do they enhance each other's ability to promote cancer or damage the kidneys of consumers?

At the beginning of 2016, Australian cotton farmers announced the worst cropping season on record.  Just half way through the season, the financial impact has been put at £20 million.  Their problem comes down to incorrect spraying of 2,4-D which can land invisibly more than 10 kilometres away.  Growers of mung-beans and grapes have reported similar crop damage.  No doubt the biotech industry answer will be 2,4-D-resistant cotton, mung-beans and grapevines.

China's wariness might delay the marketing of Enlist Duo, but it won't stop it forever.

Tell your MEP that the EU must not approve (GM) animal feed treated with Enlist Duo plus, no doubt, ever-increasing residues of 2,4-D and glyphosate, and a host of unknowns [4].

If you're wondering how an herbicide hugely involved in the horrific and ongoing health problems in Vietnam can so easily be considered safe, Carol Van Strum blames this on the 'dioxin diversion'.  Because 2,4,5-T was conveniently found to be contaminated with traces of this highly toxic substance, all blame was successfully directed away from the two herbicidal components of Agent Orange.  Check out Carol Van Strum's A Bitter Fog, 1983, Sierra Club Books, ISBN 0-87156-329-0.


  • Carcinogenicity of lindane, DDT, and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, The Lancet, 23.06.15
  • Philip J. Landrigan and Charles Benbrook, GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health, New England Journal of Medicine, 20.08.15
  • Jesse Newman, EPA Seeks to Revoke Approval of Dow Chemical's Enlist Duo Herbicide, Wall Street Journal, 25.11.15
  • Karl Plume, EPA asks court to withdraw registration of Dow herbicide, Reuters, 26.10.15
  • Linda Wells, Pesticide Action Network North America, Exposing the EPA's Dark Side,, 6.01.16
  • Patrica Callahan, Court clears way for revival of worrisome weedkiller, Chicago Tribune, 28.01.16
  • Dijana Damjanovic, Cotton farmers battle one of the worst cropping seasons on record after pesticide damage, ABC, 2.01.16

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