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.
GM crops promote superweeds, food insecurity and pesticides, say NGOs
By John Vidal
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.
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.
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.