Friday, June 15, 2012

Monsanto corn injured

Monsanto corn injured by early rootworm feeding in Illinois
By Jack Kaskey
Bloomberg Businessweek
June 15, 2012

Monsanto Co. corn has been overwhelmed in parts of Illinois by rootworms that hatched a month early, renewing concern that the bugs are becoming immune to the insecticide engineered into the crop.

An “amazing” number of rootworms have emerged as adult beetles, the earliest start in at least 30 years, Michael Gray, an entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana, said today in an online journal. The insects “severely pruned” the roots of corn observed June 7 at a farm in Cass County, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.

The western corn rootworm is one of the most destructive pests and historically cost U.S. farmers about $1 billion a year in damages and chemical pesticides before crops with built-in insecticide were developed. Corn fields in four states were overrun with the bugs last year, incidents that the Environmental Protection Agency suspects is a sign of increasing resistance to the insecticide.

The damaged fields in Illinois have been planted with corn continuously for at least 10 years, including six consecutive years with corn engineered to produce the Cry3Bb1 protein from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a natural insecticide, Gray said.

“Under these conditions, the selection pressure for resistance development is markedly increased,” he said.

[Read More…]

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Going backwards

What new 2,4-D-resistant crops mean - Going backwards
By Linda Greene
The Bloomington Alternative
June 10, 2012

On May 23, 2012, John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America, sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting his “immediate assistance in staying de-regulation of Dow AgroSciences much ballyhooed 2,4-D-resistant corn seed until an environmental impact study can be conducted and its subsequent results evaluated by scientists who are not affiliated with Dow AgroScience.”

Rowan is concerned about the use of the herbicide 2,4-D on 2,4-D-resistant–corn because it constituted half the ingredients in the defoliant Agent Orange used by the U.S. during the Vietnam War and is causing serious ailments in vets and Vietnamese civilians. Agent Orange was contaminated with dioxins, the most potent synthetic class of carcinogenic chemicals known, second only to radiation in potency as a carcinogen. Although most of the dioxins were from the 2,4,5-T half of Agent Orange, 2,4-D was also contaminated.

The deregulation, or approval for widespread planting, of 2,4-D-resistant corn and consequent increased use of the herbicide is relevant to Indiana, the fifth largest corn-producing state in the nation, according to Marti Crouch, a Bloomington biologist specializing in the interrelationships of agriculture and technology. She has recently focused on the environmental impacts of Roundup Ready crops (those resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup [glyphosate]) and the concomitant increased use of Roundup.

[Read More…]

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Larger refuges needed

Larger refuges needed to sustain success of Bt corn
Press Release
Entomological Society of America
June 3, 2012

Lanham, MD - Transgenic crops that produce insect-killing proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) have reduced reliance on insecticide sprays since 1996. Yet, just as insects become resistant to conventional insecticides, they also can evolve resistance to the Bt proteins in transgenic crops. Thus, to delay pest resistance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required farmers to plant “refuges” of crops that do not produce Bt proteins near Bt crops. But how much refuge acreage is enough?

In “Delaying Corn Rootworm Resistance to Bt Corn,” an article appearing in the June, 2012 issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology, authors Bruce Tabashnik (University of Arizona) and Fred Gould (North Carolina State University) conclude the EPA should more than double the percentage of corn acres planted to mandated refuges to delay insect resistance, encourage integrated pest management (IPM), and promote more sustainable crop protection.

[Read More…]

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

War on weeds losing

War on weeds loses ground
By Helen Thompson
Nature News
May 22, 2012

With its jumble of leaves and pointy, green, flower spikes, the plant known as pigweed or palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) isn’t much to look at. But to farmers in the southeastern United States, it is a formidable foe. Having evolved the ability to withstand glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s popular herbicide Roundup, it now flourishes unchecked alongside crops such as cotton and soya bean that are genetically modified to be glyphosate tolerant.

And it is not unique, says agronomist Harold Coble at the Office of Pest Management Policy in Raleigh, North Carolina, part of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), who notes that 383 known weed varieties have the genetic defences to survive one or more herbicides. “Weed resistance is a game changer for agriculture in the same way that drug resistance has been a game changer for the health-care industry,” says Coble, who spoke on 10 May at a Weed Summit in Washington DC convened by the National Academies. The problem has escalated since the widespread introduction of Roundup Ready and similar crops over the past decade allowed farmers to apply glyphosate more liberally. At the summit, distinctly different responses to the challenge were up for discussion.

[Read More…]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

No easy fix for superweeds

Super weeds no easy fix for US agriculture-experts
By Carey Gillam
Reuters
May 10 2012

WASHINGTON - A fast-spreading plague of “super weeds” taking over U.S. farmland will not be stopped easily, and farmers and government officials need to change existing practices if food production is to be protected, industry experts said on Thursday.

“This is a complex problem,” said weed scientist David Shaw in remarks to a national “summit” of weed experts in Washington to come up with a plan to battle weeds that have developed resistance to herbicides.

Weed resistance has spread to more than 12 million U.S. acres and primarily afflicts key agricultural areas in the U.S. Southeast and the corn and soybean growing areas of the Midwest.

Many of the worst weeds, some of which grow more than six feet and can sharply reduce crop yields, have become resistant to the popular glyphosate-based weed-killer Roundup, as well as other common herbicides.

[Read More…]

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