Thursday, August 4, 2011

Monsanto’s GM sweet corn

Monsanto launching its first biotech sweet corn
Reuters
By Carey Gillam
August 04, 2011

ST. LOUIS, Missouri - Monsanto Co. is preparing to launch a genetically altered sweet corn, marking the global seed company’s first commercial combination of its biotechnology with a consumer-oriented vegetable product.

The sweet corn seed, which will be available to farmers this fall, has been genetically altered to tolerate treatment of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, and to fight off insects that might attack the plants, said Consuelo Madere, Monsanto vice president of the company’s global vegetable business. The “triple-stack” sweet corn is aimed at the fresh market, a relatively small market sector with total U.S. plantings of about 250,000 acres, said Madere. She declined to say how large of a launch the company was making, only to say it would be “very, very small.”

Though this is Monsanto’s first biotech vegetable launch, Madere said other companies have already brought genetically altered vegetables to market and she did not anticipate significant consumer backlash.

“This is our first launch. We think it is a good product and we’ll work to make sure we educate folks to the benefits,” she said.

Monsanto’s vegetable unit is anchored by Seminis, which it acquired in 2005, and is distinct from Monsanto’s mammoth seed business for field crops like corn, soybeans, cotton and canola. For the most recent quarter, vegetable seed sales totaled $216 million out of more than $2.6 billion in total seed and genomic sales.

Since buying Seminis, Monsanto has been expanding its holdings in the vegetable seed arena. Still, while Monsanto is known for its expertise in plant biotechnology, the vegetable unit has only a few genetically altered products in its pipeline because non-biotech breeding techniques are more cost-effective than biotech for vegetable seeds, said Madere.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Court rules on ‘trespass’

Court rules organic farmers can sue conventional, GMO farmers whose pesticides ‘trespass’ and contaminate their fields
Ethan A. Huff
NaturalNews.com
August 03, 2011

Precedent has now been set for organic farmers to sue biotechnology companies whose GMOs contaminate their crops

Purveyors of conventional and genetically-modified (GM) crops — and the pesticides and herbicides that accompany them — are finally getting a taste of their own legal medicine. Minnesota’s Star Tribune has reported that the Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled that a large organic farm surrounded by chemical-laden conventional farms can seek damages for lost crops, as well as lost profits, caused by the illegal trespassing of pesticides and herbicides on its property.

[Read More…]

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Managing glyphosate failures

Managing Glyphosate Failures
By Bob Hartzler and Mike Owen, Department of Agronomy, ISU
July 15, 2011

In the past week we have received numerous calls from farmers, agchem dealers and industry representatives regarding waterhemp and horseweed/marestail surviving glyphosate applications made in late June and early July. Although there are numerous reasons why a herbicide application might fail at controlling weeds, we are certain that a significant percentage of these failures are due to the presence of glyphosate-resistant biotypes in the field.

The common question is what can be done to rescue the situation in the field. Unfortunately, at this time of the year there are few options. If glyphosate failed earlier to control the weeds, it is unlikely that a repeat application will do any good in controlling the surviving weeds. The PPO inhibitors (Reflex, Cobra, Phoenix, UltraBlazer, etc.) are the other postemergence option available for waterhemp in soybean. However, the label restrictions regarding weed size are long past and thus these herbicides are unlikely to provide affective control. There also is a potential for serious crop injury with the high temperature forecast for the coming week. Furthermore, the harvest interval restrictions for each of these products should be reviewed.

Although not popular with the majority of growers, mechanical control is really the only available option to manage escaped and/or herbicide-resistant waterhemp and horseweed/marestail at this time. If only scattered plants are present in the field, hand-weeding the field would be worth the effort since this will slow the establishment and spread of resistance within the field. If the presence of surviving waterhemp and horseweed/marestail is more widespread, a trip back in time using a cultivator is really the only option to reduce the problems with these escapes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Flutters may be fewer

In midwest, flutters may be far fewer
By Andrew Pollack
New York Times
July 11, 2011

As recently as a decade ago, farms in the Midwest were commonly marred — at least as a farmer would view it — by unruly patches of milkweed amid the neat rows of emerging corn or soybeans.

Not anymore. Fields are now planted with genetically modified corn and soybeans resistant to the herbicide Roundup, allowing farmers to spray the chemical to eradicate weeds, including milkweed.

And while that sounds like good news for the farmers, a growing number of scientists fear it is imperiling the monarch butterfly, whose spectacular migrations make it one of the most beloved of insects — “the Bambi of the insect world,” as an entomologist once put it.

Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, and their larvae eat it. While the evidence is still preliminary and disputed, experts like Chip Taylor say the growing use of genetically modified crops is threatening the orange-and-black butterfly by depriving it of habitat.

“This milkweed has disappeared from at least 100 million acres of these row crops,” said Dr. Taylor, an insect ecologist at the University of Kansas and director of the research and conservation program Monarch Watch. “Your milkweed is virtually gone.”

The primary evidence that monarch populations are in decline comes from a new study showing a drop over the last 17 years of the area occupied by monarchs in central Mexico, where many of them spend the winter. The amount of land occupied by the monarchs is thought to be a proxy for their population size.

“This is the first time we have the data that we can analyze statistically that shows there’s a downward trend,” said Ernest H. Williams, a professor of biology at Hamilton College and an author of the study along with Dr. Taylor and others.

[Read More…]

Friday, July 1, 2011

Engineering a disaster

Engineering An Environmental Disaster
By Jessica Knoblauch
EarthJustice
July 1, 2011

America’s supermarkets are awash in genetically modified foods. Over the past decade, biotech companies like Monsanto have dominated dinner tables with crops like corn, soybeans and canola modified to survive lethal doses of herbicides, resulting in increased herbicide use, a surge in herbicide-resistant weeds, and the contamination of organic and conventional crops. According to the Center for Food Safety, more than half of all processed food in U.S. grocery stores—items like cereals, corn dogs and cookies—contain genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

“This technology is a one-trick pony,” says George Kimbrell, an attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “They don’t help us feed the world, they don’t fight climate change, and they don’t help us better the environment. They just increase pesticides and herbicides. That’s what they do.”

Currently, 85 percent of GE crops are designed to resist herbicides. Companies like Syngenta, Bayer and Dow have all created their own herbicide tolerant seeds, modified to withstand the company’s corresponding herbicide treatment. But it’s Monsanto, the world leader in GE seed production, that has benefited the most from biotechnology by packaging its Roundup Ready line of GE seeds with its Roundup herbicide. Monsanto, whose roots began in creating toxic chemical concoctions like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and DDT, is now the world’s leading producer of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide.

But what’s good for Monsanto’s business isn’t so great for people or the environment. That’s why in 2007, Earthjustice, together with the Center for Food Safety, challenged the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets on the market, arguing that the agency failed to adequately assess both its environmental and economic impacts.

“The main problem for the public at large is increased chemicals in the environment,” says Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff. “But you also have consumers’ as well as farmers’ choice being adversely affected. Nobody really wants Monsanto controlling their diet, but that is in fact what’s happening.”

[Read More…]

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