Rhone-Poulenc, one of the world's leading agrochemical
companies, received conditional approval from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in May 1995, to sell
its herbicide bromoxynil for use on transgenic cotton. The
decision clears the way for the first commercialization of an
engineered herbicide-resistant crop. The approval, in the
form of a conditional registration of the herbicide, is
limited to three years and 250,000 acres of cotton, and
requires Rhone-Poulenc to collect information on impacts of
the transgenic cotton before full approval is granted.
EPA's conditional approval presumably indicated concern about
expanding use of a highly toxic herbicide. Bromoxynil causes
developmental abnormalities in laboratory mammals and may
cause birth defects in humans. EPA also considers the
herbicide to be a potential cancer-causing agent. In
addition, it is highly toxic to fish.
During the three-year period of the conditional registration,
EPA will review company data concerning bromoxynil's human
health hazards. In addition, Rhone-Poulenc must submit
information to determine whether the herbicide and engineered
cotton actually lead to a net reduction in herbicide use.
Depending on the outcome of these evaluations, the Agency
could allow or deny full registration for bromoxynil on
transgenic cotton, or set another conditional registration.
The bromoxynil-tolerant cotton (trade name BXN cotton) was
developed by Calgene, a biotechnology company (see PANUPS,
August 1, 1995), and Rhone -Poulenc. Sold under the trade
name Buctril, bromoxynil has long been registered for use on
corn, wheat, oats and several other crops. However, it was
not previously registered for use on cotton because it kills
normal cotton plants. Scientists have made the crop resistant
to the herbicide by transferring a bromoxynil-degrading
enzyme from a soil microorganism into cotton. A new "package"
will now be made available to farmers: bromoxynil from Rhone-
Poulenc for use with bromoxynil-resistant cotton seeds from a
Calgene seed company.
A few days after its recent decision on bromoxynil, EPA also
approved commercialization of a second transgenic herbicide-
resistant crop. Monsanto received an unconditional
registration for its herbicide glyphosate (trade name
Roundup) on the transgenic glyphosate-resistant soybeans it
developed (see PANUPS, August 1, 1995). This means that
Monsanto may now market a weed-control package of glyphosate
and glyphosate-resistant soybeans.
Source: The Gene Exchange, July 1995.
Contact: Jane Rissler, Union of Concerned Scientists, 1616 P
Street NW, Washington DC 20036; phone (202) 332-0900; fax
The Gene Exchange, a quarterly publication of UCS, is
available on the Econet conference: env.biotech.
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