Thursday, August 11, 2011

GMOs to blame

GMOs to blame for problems in plants, animals
By Jefferson Dodge
Boulder Weekly
August 11, 2011

One of the experts set to testify at Wednesday’s long-awaited meeting about the county’s policy for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on open space says scientists are seeing new, alarming patterns in plants and animals due to increased use of the herbicide Roundup.

Michael McNeill is an agronomist who owns Ag Advisory Ltd. in Algona, Iowa. He received his Ph.D. in quantitative genetics and plant pathology from Iowa State University in 1969 and has been a crop consultant since 1983. He was among three experts invited by county officials to testify at the Aug. 10 meeting of the Cropland Policy Advisory Group (CPAG).

CPAG, which has been meeting since February, serves as a sounding board for the county’s parks and open space staff as they develop a new cropland policy on matters like what may be grown on county land. The group has only touched briefly on the hot-button GMO issue in its past meetings; the Aug. 10 meeting was devoted entirely to the subject.

McNeill told Boulder Weekly before the meeting that he and his colleagues in the industry are seeing serious, negative effects produced by the use of glyphosate, which is the primary ingredient in Roundup weed killer. (Monsanto, the company that makes Roundup, has generated controversy by genetically altering crops to make them resistant to the herbicide.)

McNeill says that in the Midwest and other areas of the country, such as Louisiana and Mississippi, weeds like water hemp, giant ragweed, lamb’s quarter and velvet weed have become Roundup resistant through natural selection, due to a particular genetic mutation that survived the poison and therefore reproduced successfully and wildly.

The problem is, farmers’ natural reaction has been to simply apply more Roundup to their crops, which is having deleterious impacts, McNeill says.

[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…]

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Public kept in the dark

Public kept in the dark on Roundup link with birth defects
Press release
Earth Open Source
June 7, 2011

Industry and EU regulators knew as long ago as the 1980s-1990s that Roundup, the world’s best selling herbicide, causes birth defects – but they failed to inform the public. This is the conclusion of a new report, “Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?” co-authored by a group of international scientists and researchers and released today.

The report reveals that industry’s own studies (including one commissioned by Monsanto) showed as long ago as the 1980s that Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate causes birth defects in laboratory animals.

The German government has known about these findings since at least the 1990s, when as the “rapporteur” member state for glyphosate, it reviewed industry’s studies for the EU approval of the herbicide. The European Commission has known since at least 2002, when it signed off on glyphosate’s approval.

But this information was not made public. On the contrary, regulators have consistently misled the public about glyphosate’s safety. As recently as last year, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, BVL, told the Commission there was “no evidence of teratogenicity” (ability to cause birth defects) for glyphosate.

[Read More…]

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