Thursday, November 10, 2011

Farmer challenges Monsanto

Maine farmer heads group challenging genetics giant Monsanto
By Avery Yale Kamila
Portland Press Herald
November 10, 2011

A fight to maintain consumer choice and farm independence has landed Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen on Utne Reader’s list of “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World,” published in the November/December edition of the magazine on newsstands now.

Organic seed potato farmer Jim Gerritsen heads a trade association that is suing chemical giant Monsanto. (photo: Charlotte Hedley ) Gerritsen, wife Megan, and their four children run the Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, which produces and sells organic seed potatoes to kitchen gardeners and market farmers in all 50 states. Gerritsen is also president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, and it was that role that led to the Utne recognition.

The nonprofit organization created a stir in food and farming communities when, with legal backing from the Public Patent Foundation, it filed a lawsuit in March against the chemical and biotechnology giant Monsanto. OSGATA has since been joined in the lawsuit by 82 other seed businesses, trade organizations and family farmers, which together represent more than 270,000 people.

The lawsuit questions the validity of Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seeds, and seeks protection from patent-infringement lawsuits for the plaintiffs should their crops become contaminated with Monsanto’s transgenic crops.

[Read More…]

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Old chemicals are back

Old chemicals are back in battle against weeds
STLtoday.com
By Georgina Gustin
October 30, 2011

As industry standard Roundup falters, concerns emerge about herbicides from decades past.

As farmers wage war on a worsening weed problem, they are being forced to enlist the aid of chemicals they once virtually abandoned.

Since 1996, Monsanto’s Roundup weed-killing system has become the dominant approach in agriculture, changing the way American farmers grow commodity crops. In the past several years, though, American farmers have increasingly reported that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, isn’t killing weeds. So once-popular chemicals such as “2, 4-D” and “dicamba” again have been called to duty.

“It’s really ironic that in this day and age of genetic engineering we’re going back to a herbicide from the 1940s,” said Dean Riechers, an associate professor of weed physiology at the University of Illinois, referring to the chemical “2, 4-D.” “It’s the oldest herbicide we have, and it’s going to become really popular again.”

The ineffectiveness of glyphosate has left companies scrambling to come up with other options, but some farmers and environmentalists are concerned about health and environmental risks.

[Read More…]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Toxic herbicide revived

‘Superweeds’ revive an old, highly toxic herbicide
By Tom Philpott
Mother Jones
October 19, 2011

Don’t call it a comeback; 2, 4-D’s been here for years. It even played a role in Agent Orange.

Ecologists call it the “pesticide treadmill”: pests like weeds and bugs evolve to resist the poisons designed to destroy them, forcing farmers to apply ever-higher doses or resort to novel poisons.

But Monsanto’s empire of Roundup Ready crops—designed to resist lashings of its own herbicide, Roundup—appears on the verge of sending the pesticide treadmill into reverse. As Roundup loses effectiveness, swamped by a galloping plague of resistant superweeds [1], farmers have already played the card of dramatically boosting Roundup application rate [2]s.

Now they’re being urged to resort to an herbicide called 2,4-D that first hit farm fields in 1948, and that made up half of the formula for Agent Orange, the infamous defoliant applied to disastrous effect in the Vietnam War. Reports Southeast Farm Press [3]:

2,4-D is coming back. What many might consider a “dinosaur” may be the best solution for growers fighting weed resistance today, said Dean Riechers, University of Illinois associate professor of weed physiology.

To be fair, 2, 4-D made up the less toxic half of the Agent Orange formula, according to this Beyond Pesticides report [4](PDF) on it. The other half, known as 2,4,5-T, carried most of the dioxin contamination that made Agent Orange such a nightmare [5]for everyone exposed to it in Vietnam.

[Read More…]

NGO report on GM

GM crops promote superweeds, food insecurity and pesticides, say NGOs
By John Vidal
The Guardian
October 19, 2011

Report finds genetically modified crops fail to increase yields let alone solve hunger, soil erosion and chemical-use issues

Genetic engineering has failed to increase the yield of any food crop but has vastly increased the use of chemicals and the growth of “superweeds”, according to a report by 20 Indian, south-east Asian, African and Latin American food and conservation groups representing millions of people.

The so-called miracle crops, which were first sold in the US about 20 years ago and which are now grown in 29 countries on about 1.5bn hectares (3.7bn acres) of land, have been billed as potential solutions to food crises, climate change and soil erosion, but the assessment finds that they have not lived up to their promises.

The report claims that hunger has reached “epic proportions” since the technology was developed. Besides this, only two GM “traits” have been developed on any significant scale, despite investments of tens of billions of dollars, and benefits such as drought resistance and salt tolerance have yet to materialise on any scale.

Most worrisome, say the authors of the Global Citizens’ Report on the State of GMOs, is the greatly increased use of synthetic chemicals, used to control pests despite biotech companies’ justification that GM-engineered crops would reduce insecticide use.

[Read More…]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

GM in wild species

GM cotton genes found in wild species
By María Elena Hurtado
SciDev.Net
October 13, 2011

SANTIAGO, CHILE - Genetically modified (GM) cotton genes have been found in wild populations for the first time, making it the third plant species — after Brassica and bentgrass — in which transgenes have established in the wild.

The discovery was made in Mexico by six Mexican researchers investigating the flow of genes to wild cotton populations of the species Gossypium hirsutum.

They found transgenes from cotton that had been modified to resist insects, herbicides or antibiotics in just under a quarter of the 270 wild cotton seeds assessed for that purpose. One of the contaminated seeds came from a wild plant located 755 kilometres away from the nearest GM cotton plantation. Others were beyond first-generation hybrids because they carried multiple and different transgenes.

According to the researchers, the GM seeds could have been dispersed by long distance lorry drivers transporting seeds for animal feed or oil extraction; by mild or strong winds; by fresh or salt water; or by birds and animals that had eaten them.

[Read More…]

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