Sunday, October 30, 2011
Old chemicals are back in battle against weeds
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.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
‘Superweeds’ revive an old, highly toxic herbicide
By Tom Philpott
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 , farmers have already played the card of dramatically boosting Roundup application rate 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 :
To be fair, 2, 4-D made up the less toxic half of the Agent Orange formula, according to this Beyond Pesticides report (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 for everyone exposed to it in Vietnam.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Superweeds pose growing threat to U.S. crops
By Carey Gillam
September 20, 2011
PAOLA, Kansas - Farmer Mark Nelson bends down and yanks a four-foot-tall weed from his northeast Kansas soybean field. The “waterhemp” towers above his beans, sucking up the soil moisture and nutrients his beans need to grow well and reducing the ultimate yield. As he crumples the flowering end of the weed in his hand, Nelson grimaces.
“We are at a disturbing juncture,” said Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The use of toxic chemicals in agriculture is skyrocketing. This is not the path to sustainability.”
“When we harvest this field, these waterhemp seeds will spread all over kingdom come,” he said.
Nelson’s struggle to control crop-choking weeds is being repeated all over America’s farmland. An estimated 11 million acres are infested with “super weeds,” some of which grow several inches in a day and defy even multiple dousings of the world’s top-selling herbicide, Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate.
The problem’s gradual emergence has masked its growing menace. Now, however, it is becoming too big to ignore. The super weeds boost costs and cut crop yields for U.S. farmers starting their fall harvest this month. And their use of more herbicides to fight the weeds is sparking environmental concerns.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
USDA/APHIS Creeping towards Regulatory Shutdown
By Prof. Joe Cummins
August 30, 2011
Regulating GM crops
Genetically modified (GM) grass tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate, intended for use in golf courses, parks and athletic fields, has become a focal point for the biotech industry and academe bent on killing the regulation of GM crops.
Before going into the bluegrass saga, the basics of GM crop regulation in the United States should be outlined. First, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is entrusted to ensure the safe development of agricultural biotechnology by regulating field-testing, interstate movement, and importation of GM organisms (GMOs). APHIS determines whether a GMO is as safe for the environment as its traditional counterpart and hence can be freely used in agriculture. APHIS uses the term ‘biotechnology’ to mean recombinant DNA technology, or genetic engineering (modification) of living organisms . In addition, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates several biotechnology products, including pesticides produced by plants or microorganisms and non-pesticidal substances such as industrial enzymes, biosensors, and bioremediation agents produced using microorganisms . The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which determined that bioengineered foods should be regulated like their conventional counterparts in 1992, has not to-date established any regulations specific to bioengineered food . APHIS has undertaken regulation of the testing and release to the environment of GM crops on the basis that the GM crops must not pose a threat to unmodified crops while any threat to humans and farm animals is not considered by APHIS, or by any other agency.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Roundup herbicide research shows plant, soil problems
By Carey Gillam
August 12, 2011
KANSAS CITY, Missouri - The heavy use of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide appears to be causing harmful changes in soil and potentially hindering yields of the genetically modified crops that farmers are cultivating, a government scientist said on Friday.
Repeated use of the chemical glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup herbicide, impacts the root structure of plants, and 15 years of research indicates that the chemical could be causing fungal root disease, said Bob Kremer, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.