Some of the more harrowing things I read toward the end of my undergrad years were firsthand accounts from women who served in Vietnam, and were exposed to Agent Orange. I’m a Millenial at a remove from the atrocities of Vietnam; these accounts were stomach-churning, terrifying, and vital to read. This woman who had a child after she was exposed to Agent Orange had a particularly memorable account:
He was okay when he was born, but we started having problems with him when we started putting him on solid food at four months. At eight months he had to have a temporary colostomy; 50 percent of his intestines did not have nerve cells. When he was twelve years old, he had 50 percent of his large intestine removed and had what you call a pull-through, with the good intestine pulled down and attached to his rectum….A geneticist friend of mine explained that this condition was genetic. It wasn’t until later that I realized the key to this problem could be Agent Orange.
Another woman explains that her child experienced “numbing of the extremities” and rapidly deterioriating eyesight (“she was 20/200 in both eyes…. She was nine. Now she is up to 20/350 and 20/375″). Nevertheless, the woman explains, “I get very upset when people tell me there is no such thing as Agent Orange, it doesn’t exist, it’s all in your head….”
People denied the effects of Agent Orange immediately after Vietnam. Now it seems as though there’s a wider cultural and regulatory amnesia to what it could do to us. One of the people I talk with on Twitter, @natashachart, threw this news at me:
Dow Chemical is currently requesting an unprecedented USDA approval: a genetically engineered (GE) version of corn that is resistant to 2,4-D, a major component of the highly toxic Agent Orange. Agent Orange was the chemical defoliant used by the U.S. in Vietnam, and it caused lasting ecological damage as well as many serious medical conditions in both Vietnam veterans and the Vietnamese.
USDA approval of Dow’s GE corn will trigger a big increase in 2,4-D use – and our exposure to this toxic herbicide. Yet USDA has not assessed how much, nor analyzed the resulting impacts on public health, the environment or neighboring farmers (2,4-D is prone to drift and cause damage to nearby crops). Instead, USDA has once again bowed to the pesticide industry, by giving preliminary approval to still another pesticide-promoting crop that will likely harm people and their children, including farmers, and the environment. USDA claims to be adhering to a scientific process, yet the Agency is blatantly ignoring the science on 2,4-D.
I’ve written before how a lack of regulation tends toward greater societal disorder. The USDA approving this freaky corn (in a way, deregulation via regulatory regime) is yet another example of how deregulation can threaten our lives, our trust of governmental protection, and even something as basic as our food supply.