The following is the text of a letter sent earlier today by John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), to President Barack Obama.
“Your obvious concern and efforts on behalf of the health and well-being of America’s veterans and military families, and the overall health of our nation, are very much appreciated by Vietnam Veterans of America. This is why VVA seeks your immediate assistance in staying the deregulation of Dow Agro science’s much ballyhooed 2,4-D-resistant corn seed until an environmental impact study can be conducted and its subsequent results evaluated by scientists who are not affiliated with Dow Agro science.
“To date, no fewer than seven environmental statutes bear on the registration and deregulation of this crop, bred to withstand high levels of herbicides, including 2,4-D, technically known as a chlorinated phenoxy acid in ester form, which comprised what was commonly called Agent Orange, known for the orange stripe around the 55-gallon drums in which this insidious defoliant was stored and shipped during the Vietnam War.
Although there is a lot that science has learned about the effects of dioxin on the human organism, there is still a lot that science has yet to learn. We do know, for instance, the dioxin builds up in the soft fatty tissue, where it remains for years and can do considerable damage. Now, Dow and Monsanto wish to release genetically modified corn that has increased resistance to 2,4-D. What will this mean to Vietnam vets, who have already been exposed to this chemical through our military service? To our progeny? We believe there has been little serious epidemiological investigation by the VA or the CDC or the NIH into this very real issue. To add insult to potential injury, Dow’s naming of this weed-control method “Enlist” is, unintended or not, a slap at all Vietnam veterans.
“The USDA did perform an environmental assessment on this seed and concluded that its deregulation would have no “significant” impact on the environment. We disagree. We submitted formal comments regarding this issue in a letter on April 27, 2012, to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Given what we know, we have major concerns about the effects on biodiversity, human health, cumulative environmental impacts, and the security of the world’s food supply.
“The increased use of 2,4-D could significantly harm the economic interests of farmers who grow broadleaf crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, and grapes, which are damaged by 2,4-D. The potential for cross-pollination and destruction of other varieties of corn and other crops has not been seriously addressed in the environmental assessment, although it is a factor in whether or not this corn is a plant pest and can itself be considered a noxious weed because of its impacts on other plant species. Dow has also acknowledged that its ultimate goal for its new variety of corn is to eventually seize the market. Should this come to pass, USDA fails to address how increased use of Dow’s product could then impact human health.
“Democracy and free markets cannot exist without an informed citizenry. We have not been provided with enough information to make intelligent decisions regarding the protection of other plants, human health, and the security of the world’s food supply if Dow’s petition moves forward. USDA’s APHIS program has prepared an environmental assessment that raises more questions than it answers, and raises concerns of significant impacts to the future of our crops, our world food supply, and our natural environment. NEPA and the CEQ require an environmental impact statement be prepared under 40 C.F.R. § 1508. We are not calling for a complete ban of this new product at this time. We are simply not willing to be lied to or withheld information from again. Vietnam veterans were lied to about our exposure to chemicals which claimed many lives long after our troops left Southeast Asia.
“Mr. President, at the time when we honor veterans who have laid the ultimate sacrifice upon the altar of freedom, we ask that you honor the public trust and continue to regulate Dow’s product until the USDA performs a proper environmental impact statement on this major federal action and opens the process to appropriate public involvement.
“We thank you for all you have done for veterans and our families, and for active-duty troops and their families.”
Vietnam Veterans of America is the nation’s only congressionally chartered veteran’s service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA’s founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”