Ag Science Rejection Carries Consequences

When I was a kid, science was something to be embraced and cherished. Like most children in my neighborhood, I had a chemistry set where I mixed up all sorts of concoctions and a model of an Apollo rocket complete with instructions on how to figure out launch speeds and vehicle trajectory.

Yet, somewhere between the glory days of NASA and today, science now seems to be something reviled in many parts of America. This seems particularly true in the world of agriculture. Almost daily, I read online about the “evils of biotechnology,” how modern agricultural practices are “poisoning watersheds” and certain crop protection products are “killing bees.”

By themselves, these suppositions are harmless enough. But too often, the buzz surrounding these claims makes its way to the legislative arena. And that presents a problem for the whole industry.

“The biggest challenge we face in the crop protection business today is when politics becomes part of the regulatory process vs. science,” said Tim Hassinger, president/CEO of Dow AgroSciences at the company’s recent media day event. “But we as a company have to be prepared to address both of these areas.”

Do you think politics trumps science when it comes to regulatory approvals today?

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Of course, Hassinger was responding to a question regarding Dow AgroSciences’ slowly moving approval process for its Enlist Weed Control System, which should finally gain regulatory sign-off in time for the 2015 growing season. Centered on a new formulation of 2,4-D herbicide, crops with the Enlist trait should give growers another tool in their efforts to combat herbicide-resistant weeds.

According to Damon Palmer, U.S. commercial leader, Enlist Weed Control System for Dow AgroSciences, non-scientific claims from certain special interest groups to legislators “undoubtedly slowed down the approval process” for Enlist – and ultimately hurt all of agriculture.

“When we at Dow bring a new technology to the agricultural market, it helps everyone,” said Palmer. “When the farmer has more tools to do their jobs, they can increase yield. That means enough food is being produced for everyone to enjoy. But they can’t do this unless we can get those tools into their hands.”

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