Agent Orange Corn: A Little 2,4-D in Your Sauce?

Hello Chicago and Good Day, World!

English: Image from MolInspiration's 3-D struc...

English: Image from MolInspiration’s 3-D structure of 2,4-Dichlorophenoaceric acid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Listening to local radio station NewsRadio 780 WBBM in Chicago this morning, I heard the introduction to a story that seemed curious and serious at the same time. It referred to something called “agent orange corn”, and the reality of the “super-weed“. Certainly the super – weed concept has been known for decades, if some documents are accurate, and the use of extremely toxic herbicides has also been known for decades. Also known is the excellent book, Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson. I am presently reading that scientific treatise, and by coincidence a page I just finished mentioned the extremely potent compound known as 2,4-D. What exactly is 2,4-D? According to a book titled The Science of 2,4,5-T and associated phenoxy herbicides, which I found in the reference section of the Harold Washington Library in the Chicago Loop, the full name of the chemical is 2,4-dichlorophenoxy acetic acid. That’s a mouthful, and wow what it can do to you or to anything it gets into!

In fact, on page 213 of Silent Spring, is the following quote:

The herbicide 2,4-D has also produced tumorlike swellings in treated plants. Chromosomes become short, thick, clumped together. Cell division is seriously retarded. The general effect is said to parallel closely that produced by X-rays.

Other quotes or sections in Silent Spring where 2,4-D are mentioned are page 43, with a curious case of the discovery of that weed – killer compound; and pp. 75 – 79

Threaten MY soybeans and corn, will you, eh? Yecchh.

As I later learned in the news article, the substance 2,4-D is also a compound of the demon chemical used in the Vietnam War and known as Agent Orange. A rather graphic photo of a man exposed to that chemical is at the end of this article.

Think about synthesizing a strain of corn that is resistant to pests that are resisting such potent herbicides as 2,4-D. Now those researchers would have to be exposed to the compound in order to test the effectiveness of the experiment; and that also means mention of the people who must safely – and emphasize the word SAFELY- transport the hazard to the lab.

The article seemed rather confusing as it went on, seeming to imply also that the corn must also resist the potency of the 2,4-D that is meant to kill off the invading superweeds. Thus the compound might also impact the environment wherein it is being tested, getting into the air, the groundwater, the wells, and onto other plants.

Well, I’d rather have my corn without any 2,4-D sauce, thanks.

Related Vocabulary:

* Phytotoxic; hydrocarbon

* Oxidation; cell division

* Lindane, malathion, parathion, chlordane, dieldrin, heptachlor

* Carbon tetrachloride, DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane), toxaphene, benzene hexachloride, methoxychlor, phenothiazine, dinitro compounds

Suggested Sources:

1. Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. The Classic that Launched the Environmental Movement. Boston: Houghton Mifflin/ Mariner, 1962.

2. Bovey, Rodney W. The Science of 2,4,5-T and associated phenoxy herbicides. New York: Wiley Interscience, 1980.

Major Tự Đức Phang was exposed to dioxin-conta...

Major Tự Đức Phang was exposed to dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divi Logan for ®EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago, ©2012.

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