Agent Orange was developed as a defoliant … to destroy vegetation, but not immediately toxic to human beings (or so it was advertised). Some batches of Agent Orange used by the United States in Vietnam contained dioxins as manufacturing impurities. Dioxins, rather than Agent Orange itself, have, as has been discovered, long-term cancer effects and causes genetic damage leading to serious birth deformities. These horrific aftereffects have been suffered by civilians, veterans, animals and the land itself.
In 1961 and 62 the Kennedy administration authorized the use of chemicals to destroy vegetation and food crops in South Vietnam. Therefore, between 1961 and 1967 the US Air Force sprayed 12 million US gallons of concentrated herbicides, mainly Agent Orange (containing dioxin as an impurity in the manufacturing process) over 6 million acres (24,000 km2) of foliage and trees, affecting an estimated 13% of South Vietnam’s land. In 1965, 42% of all herbicides were sprayed over food crops. Besides destroying vegetation used as cover by the NLF and destroying food crops, the herbicide was also used to drive civilians into RVN-controlled areas.
In 1997, an article published by the Wall Street Journal reported that up to half a million children were born with dioxin-related deformities, and that the birth defects in South Vietnam were fourfold those in the North. Most noteworthy is that the use of Agent Orange may have been contrary to international rules of war at the time. It is also of note that the most likely victims of such an assault would be small children. A 1967 study by the Agronomy Section of the Japanese Science Council concluded that 3.8 million acres (15,000 km2) of land had been destroyed, killing 1000 peasants and 13,000 livestock. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_warfare