Agent Orange was an herbicide used to clear vegetation so that the military could spot the enemy soldiers hiding in the trees/jungle/undergrowth, so probably saved many American lives in acute battle situations. But like a lot of stuff used in war, the toxic side effects were either ignored, not looked for, or the dangers considered less of a problem than the advantage of using the chemical.
I had friends who worked in Vietnam during the war (both civilians and military physicians) who noted the high rate of birth defects, so I believe this statistic.
A 1998 review article on the problem at the NIH goes into details and statistical data: like a lot of things, the statistics are not always clear or able to prove the problem.
this article discusses not just Agent Orange but other herbicides that are suspected to be associated with birth defects.
As to Agent Orange, in the past few years, the US and VietNam have been trying to clean up the chemical pollution
and as this Forbes article relates, US military veterans were also exposed, and some claim it caused an increase in birth defects to their children also.
the clean up of Agent Orange has been going on for awhile, but but is far from finished.
this 2018 Reuters article notes an increase in funding to clean up.
Standing near a skull-and-crossbones warning sign meant to keep people away from toxic soil, Mattis was briefed by Vietnamese officials about the massive contamination area. In a possible sign of the sensitivity surrounding Agent Orange in Vietnam, where millions of people are still suffering its effects, reporters were not allowed to attend the outdoor briefing for Mattis at Bien Hoa Air Base. “I came to show the support of the Defense Department for this project and demonstrate that the United States makes good on its promises,” Mattis told his Vietnamese counterpart at a closed-door meeting later in nearby Ho Chi Minh City. Cleanup is expected to start getting under way early next year.
So will Trumpie boy bring up the problem and discuss the clean up while he is there in Vietnam? Anyone? Anyone?
Why is this important? Well, duh, modern agriculture uses similar herbicides (and pesticides and GMO seeds) to get higher yields.
Why? Because there is a need of more food to feed the growing population on earth.
And as I have noted in earlier posts: they are used in the newfangled "dry" method of growing rice that is being promoted to lower methane levels, to replace the traditional "organic" rice growing methods of flooding rice paddies to get rid of weeds (a major cause of methane emissions) and weeding by hand.
The dirty little secret: to grow enough cheap food to feed the earth's growing population, you need to use GMO food, Herbicides and pesticides. But many greens, correctly, worry about side effects.LINK LINK2
Myself, I am cynical: it's a cost/benefit ratio that needs to guide their use.
We grow organic rice, but it is too expensive for the Manila poor to buy, and of course, the crop yield is lower than using chemicals (we don't have GMO crops here: the Catholic church is green and influences the gov't. Let them eat non gmo rice, and if we can't grow enough, no problem: Import it from China and Vietnam where they do use GMO seeds, herbicides, pesticides, and lie about it on the paperwork, while the crooked politicians can make money off of importing these things.)
Why do I bring up price? well, that notorious famine in Bengal in 1944 that is being used to blacken Churchill's reputation was essentially a "price famine": Not Churchill per se and was not just a lack of rice but because diverting rice to sell at a higher price to city dwellers by merchants made it too expensive to poor people to buy.
war has a lot of side effects that don't get in the history books. Sigh.
as for rice: It's not just modern chemicals that you have to worry about.
In some countries (but not here in the Philippines, thank the Lord), Rice, especially Brown rice contains arsenic.