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Posts Tagged ‘super weeds

Pesticide-Superweed Treadmill Hot Topic at Chemists Convention

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Rady Ananda 
Activist Post   09/09/2013 

Superweeds are dominating the discussion at the American Chemical Society (ACS) symposium, being held in Indianapolis through Sept. 12. Not surprisingly, the solutions proposed include different toxic brews in tandem with stacked genetic traits in a never-ending chemical arms race with Mother Nature.

Currently, 218 different plant species are herbicide resistant, two dozen specifically resistant to glyphosate, the killing agent in Monsanto’s Roundup, Bayer’s Garden, Syngenta’s Touchdown, and in Dow’s Durango. It’s used ubiquitously on lawns, gardens and farmland. Superweeds infest over 14 million acres in the US.

Though superweeds have been a growing problem for several decades (with the advent of chemical farming), the transition to genetically modified crops and the requisite reliance on glyphosate has turbocharged the problem. Chemist Harry Strek of Bayer CropScience explains:

Beginning in the mid-to-late-1990s, crops containing genetically-engineered glyphosate resistance exploded onto the market and rapidly became the dominant and then the only weed control measure in the majority of American cotton, soybean, and corn crops. The number of alternative products used for weed control dropped significantly and resulted in a high level of selection pressure for resistance.”

ACS member Bryan Young disagrees. “We must remember that herbicides or herbicide resistant crop traits don’t create herbicide-resistant weeds.”

Young must have missed those classes explaining how bio-resistance works. Repeated use of the same class of pesticides to control a pest (whether weed or insect) can lead to artificial selection for pesticide resistance in the gene pool. Those whose genes allow them to survive the pesticide reproduce. It’s simple and undeniable. You wouldn’t have herbicide resistant superweeds without herbicides.

Citing a recent study out of the University of Washington, filmmaker Zofia Hausman told me, “Herbicides do in fact create herbicide resistant weeds!” In the final stages of production, the documentary, The Agtivists, should be released Spring 2014.

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USDA Decision On GE Alfalfa Leaves Door Open For Contamination, Rise Of Superweeds

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Update: see more links at end

Center For Food Safety January 27, 2011

ROGUE AGENCY CHOOSES “BUSINESS AS USUAL” OVER SOUND SCIENCE

CENTER ANNOUNCES IMMEDIATE LEGAL CHALLENGE TO USDA’S FLAWED ASSESSMENT

The Center for Food Safety criticized the announcement today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will once again allow unlimited, nation-wide commercial planting of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa, despite the many risks to organic and conventional farmers USDA acknowledged in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).  On a call today with stakeholders, Secretary Vilsack reiterated the concerns surrounding purity and access to non-GE seed, yet the Agency’s decision still places the entire burden for preventing contamination on non-GE farmers, with no protections for food producers, consumers and exporters.

“We’re disappointed with USDA’s decision and we will be back in court representing the interest of farmers, preservation of the environment, and consumer choice” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety. “USDA has become a rogue agency in its regulation of biotech crops and its decision to appease the few companies who seek to benefit from this technology comes despite increasing evidence that GE alfalfa will threaten the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as damage the environment.”

On Monday, the Center sent an open letter to Secretary Vilsack calling on USDA to base its decision on sound science and the interests of farmers, and to avoid rushing the process to meet the marketing timelines or sales targets of Monsanto, Forage Genetics or other entities.

CFS also addressed several key points that were not properly assessed in the FEIS, among them were: Read the rest of this entry »

The Sun Is Fading on Biotechnology

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Source: Global Research

from   Does Your Food Contain Genetically Modified Organisms?” by Rady Ananda  10/10/10

Biotechnology may have had its day in the sun, but that light is fading. The New York Times reported Monsanto’s stock dropped from a peak of $145 a share in 2008 to under $48 a share on Monday. The Christian Science Monitor noted that “the rapid increase in the percentage of US farm acres planted with biotech crops has slowed. It rose only 1 percent last year, from 85 percent to 86 percent, the smallest increase since 2001.”

Check out this interactive map of the history of GMO releases in the US from 1987 thru 2008:

Cataloguing the problems of the biotech industry, CSM states:

“Corn Belt farmers complain loudly about the soaring cost of seed. The federal government is investigating the industry for anticompetitive practices. Farmers are grappling increasingly with weeds that have grown resistant to Roundup, an herbicide widely used with genetically modified crops, and genetic contamination of conventional crops.”

Even the United Nations rebuked biotechnology this year when it concluded that agroecology “improves food production and farmers’ incomes while at the same time protecting the soil, water and climate.” The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, reported:

“The widest study ever conducted on the subject found that agroecological approaches resulted in an average crop yield gain of 79 per cent. The study covered 286 projects in 57 developing countries, representing a total surface of 37 million hectares.” (That’s over 91 million acres.)

Biotech found a friend in billionaire Bill Gates, however, so this fading light still has juice. This is precisely why a home-grown solution like the Non-GMO Project can be so effective.  By verifying which products are GM-free, NGP allows consumers to make informed choices, despite censorship by the FDA.

Use NPG’s PDF shopping guide or their iPhone app to find products verified as GM-free. The Rodale Institute, also involved with NGP, advises to buy organic and grass-fed. Check the PLU code:

“GMO foods contain the number 8 before the four-digit code printed on the produce sticker. Organic foods contain the number 9.”

USDA downplays own scientist’s research on ill effects of Monsanto herbicide

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Sure, the crops are genetically engineered to withstand Roundup; but what about the soil?

by  Tom Laskawy April 20, 2010  Grist.org

What would happen if a USDA scientist discovered that one of the most commonly used pesticides on the planet with a reputation for having saved millions of tons of US soil from erosion was — rather than a soil savior — a soil killer?

That, to quote a certain paranormal expert, would be bad. And yet, it’s true.

This news came to the fore thanks to a recently published must-read article from Reuters on how government regulators are “dropping the ball” on agricultural biotechnology. It begins with the story of USDA scientist Dr. Robert Kremer. Kremer has spent the last fifteen years looking at Monsanto’s blockbuster broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate (aka RoundUp), the most commonly used pesticide in the world and the companion to Monsanto’s possibly monopolistic RoundupReady lines of genetically engineered seeds.

While exact figures are a closely guarded secret thanks to the USDA’s refusal to update its pesticide use database after 2007, estimates suggest upwards of 200 million pounds of glyphosate were dumped on fields and farms in the US in 2008 alone. That’s almost double the amount used in 2005.

Glyphosate has a reputation as the “safest” of all the agricultural herbicides and has become the primary means of weed control in industrial agriculture. While being the best of an extremely nasty bunch may be the faintest of praise, the USDA relies on this perception, which has been fueled by industry and government research indicating that the chemical dissipates quickly and shows low toxicity (as poisons go, that is) to humans.

The claim of “millions of tons of soil saved” relates to the soil that would have otherwise been lost to erosion without glyphosate’s central role in chemical no-till farming techniques. Indeed, experts such as Dr. Michael Shannon, a program director at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, as well as other USDA scientists, make this anti-erosion claim the core argument in favor of the widespread use of the chemical.

Even so, glyphosate has been under attack from several quarters of late. Research indicates that, while glyphosate on its own may be relatively “safe,” it is actually quite toxic in combination with the other (supposedly “inert”) ingredients in commercial preparations of the herbicide, i.e. the stuff that farmers actually spray on their fields.

And of course, there is the frightening spread of superweeds that glyphosate can no longer kill. It’s to the point that thousands of acres in the South have been abandoned to resistant strains of giant pigweed.

Enter Dr. Kremer. His work, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of European Agronomy, further tarnishes glyphosate’s golden status. He has found that glyphosate’s side-effects in the ground are far more severe than previously thought. As he described it to me, the use of glyphosate causes:

  • damage to beneficial microbes in the soil increasing the likelihood of infection of a crop by soil pathogens
  • interference with nutrient uptake by the plant
  • reduced efficiency of symbiotic nitrogen fixation
  • overall lower-than-expected plant productivity

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GM Food: Angel or Devil?

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A new book published in China examines GMO technology and its potential impacts on world food security. (full info at end) The foreword to the book was written by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho from the Institute for Science in Society.

Foreword
By Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

It has been 16 years since the first genetically modified (GM) crop – Flavr Savr tomato for delayed ripening – was approved for commercial growing in the USA. It was also the year that I became a ‘science activist’, on realising how science itself was falling prey to corporate manipulation. Flavr Savr was soon withdrawn as a failure; but it was only a decoy, as agbiotech corporations like Monsanto were after much bigger game.

Genetic modification actually focussed on three major crops and two main traits: herbicide-tolerance (HT) due to glyphosate-insensitive form of the enzyme targeted by the herbicide – 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS) – derived from the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens , and insect-resistance due to one or more toxins derived from another soil bacterium Bt ( Bacillus thuringiensis ).

Commercial planting of these crops began around 1997 in the USA, the heartland of GM crops, and increased rapidly thereafter. Though, thanks to strong resistance from informed citizens in Europe and other parts of the world, GM crops have remained confined, to this day, to less than 3 percent of global agricultural land, with 79 percent of the area planted concentrated in the USA, Argentina and Brazil [1].

In the USA, GM crops now occupy 85-91 percent of the area planted with the three major crops, soybean, corn and cotton. And it is the USA that’s now facing an ecological meltdown due to GM crops [2].

HT crops encouraged the use of herbicides sold as a package with the crop, resulting in herbicide-resistant weeds that demand yet more herbicides. But the increasing use of deadly herbicide and herbicide mixtures has failed to stall the advance of the dreaded palmer superweed that stops combine harvesters and break hand tools. At the same time, secondary pests such as the tarnished plant bug, against which Bt toxin is powerless, became the single most damaging insect for US cotton. The US corn belt, meanwhile, has been ravaged by yet another secondary pest, the western bean cutworm ( Striacosta albicosta ) [3]. Farmers are at a loss to deal with the crisis. They are being advised by misguided academics to use an armoury of more deadly herbicides and insecticides that accomplishes little else than make bigger profits for the same agbiotech companies that sell them the offending GM crops. Those farmers that have held out against planting GM crops, or want to stop planting them, are finding it increasingly difficult, if not impossible to buy non-GM seeds, as corporations like Monsanto have been consolidating their monopoly on seeds in the mean time [4]. In addition, they are offering new GM varieties with up to eight ‘stacked’ traits to keep farmers on the transgenic treadmill [5].

The situation is bad enough for farmers in the United States; but it has been deadly in India, where farmers do not have any state subsidies, unlike their counterparts in the USA, and many are already caught in a cycle of indebtedness from the ‘green revolution’ agriculture that depends on high chemical inputs.

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After Monsanto’s GM Meltdown in the USA…

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Resistance to certain insects in GMO crops produces a wonderful opportunity for other pests to take their place, and they are rapidly doing so. More and more toxic insecticides and “death-gene”  technologies are being ramped up to address the problem- which shouldn’t have been created in the first place.

Institute for Science in Society April 14, 2010    Prof. Joe Cummins

Syngenta comes to the rescue to keep the transgenic treadmill going

One major impact of crops genetically modified (GM) for insect resistance is that the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry toxins conferring insect resistance are specific for particular pests. After the Bt crops have been planted for several years, the target pest is usually diminished, leaving an ecological niche into which another insect pest species may invade. This has already happened with Bt cotton in India [1] (Mealy Bug Plagues Bt Cotton in India and Pakistan, SiS 45) and in the United Stated, where the tarnished plant bug has emerged as the major pest in the cotton belt [2] (GM Crops Facing Meltdown in the USA, SiS 46).

Now Christoph Then of Test Biotech, an independent German research group, reports on the spread of the western bean cutworm (Striacosta albicosta) and the massive damage inflicted on Bt maize in the United States [3]: “The infestation has been observed since the year 2000.…. This cutworm has historically been confined to very limited regions and did not cause any major problems in maize crops. For several years now the pest has been spreading into more and more regions within the US Corn Belt and causing substantial economic damage. In 2009, maize plants affected by the western bean cutworm were even found in Canada for the first time. According to scientific publications, this new pest has been caused by the large-scale cultivation of genetically engineered plants expressing Cry1Ab such as MON810. It is seen as a case of ‘pest replacement’, often found where there is extensive use of pesticides in industrial agriculture. Pest replacement means that new ecological niches open up which other competitors then occupy. In this case, a naturally occurring competitor of the western bean cutworm has been intentionally suppressed by the extensive cultivation of Bt maize plants, thus allowing the new pest to spread on a large scale and heavily infest the crop. A whole arsenal of insecticides – some of them highly toxic – and genetically engineered multi-stacked maize are recommended for controlling the pest.”

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Mainstream Science Questions GMO Safety and Lack of Testing

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BY CAREY GILLAM, Reuters

Are US regulators dropping the ball when it comes to biocrops?

COLUMBIA, MISSOURI — Robert Kremer, a US government microbiologist who studies Midwestern farm soil, has spent two decades analyzing the rich dirt that yields billions of bushels of food each year and helps the US retain its title as breadbasket of the world.

India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, blocked the release of a genetically modified eggplant made by Monsanto. — Reuters

Mr. Kremer’s lab is housed at the University of Missouri and is literally in the shadow of Monsanto Auditorium, named after the $11.8-billion-a-year agricultural giant Monsanto Co. Based in Creve Coeur, Missouri, the company has accumulated vast wealth and power creating chemicals and genetically altered seeds for farmers worldwide.

But recent findings by Mr. Kremer and other agricultural scientists are raising fresh concerns about Monsanto’s products and the Washington agencies that oversee them. The same seeds and chemicals spread across millions of acres of US farmland could be creating unforeseen problems in the plants and soil, this body of research shows.

Mr. Kremer, who works for the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), is among a group of scientists who are turning up potential problems with glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and the most widely used weed-killer in the world.

“This could be something quite big. We might be setting up a huge problem,” said Mr. Kremer, who expressed alarm that regulators were not paying enough attention to the potential risks from biotechnology on the farm, including his own research.

Concerns range from worries about how nontraditional genetic traits in crops could affect human and animal health to the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds.

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