Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dangerous Farm Bill provision

Farm groups and public interest advocates join forces to oust dangerous ‘Biotech Provision’ from agriculture spending bill
The True Food Network
June 19, 2012

Hidden rider poses unprecedented constitutional assault, blocks USDA authority and denies GE crop safeguards

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and a coalition of farm, food safety, environmental and consumer advocacy groups today formally submitted a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations voicing strong and immediate opposition to the so-called “farmer assurance provision” (Section 733) that was quietly inserted in the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Ceding broad and unprecedented powers to industry, the rider poses a direct threat to the authority of U.S. courts, jettisons the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) established oversight powers on key agriculture issues and puts the nation’s farmers and food supply at risk.

Flying under the radar as committee debate starts today, the “farmer assurance provision” is engineered to strip federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of illegal, potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops while the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) assesses potential hazards. It also would inexplicably force USDA to allow continued planting of a GE crop even if a court of law identifies previously unrecognized risks. In addition, Section 733 targets vital judiciary oversight over USDA approvals by barring courts from compelling USDA to take action against agriculture policies that may harm farmers and the environment.

The coalition letter identifies the rider as a deliberately designed attempt to exchange long-established policies of good governance and lawful, impartial public review for the guarantee of control and profitability by a handful of biotech companies.

[Read More…]

Friday, June 15, 2012

Monsanto corn injured

Monsanto corn injured by early rootworm feeding in Illinois
By Jack Kaskey
Bloomberg Businessweek
June 15, 2012

Monsanto Co. corn has been overwhelmed in parts of Illinois by rootworms that hatched a month early, renewing concern that the bugs are becoming immune to the insecticide engineered into the crop.

An “amazing” number of rootworms have emerged as adult beetles, the earliest start in at least 30 years, Michael Gray, an entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana, said today in an online journal. The insects “severely pruned” the roots of corn observed June 7 at a farm in Cass County, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.

The western corn rootworm is one of the most destructive pests and historically cost U.S. farmers about $1 billion a year in damages and chemical pesticides before crops with built-in insecticide were developed. Corn fields in four states were overrun with the bugs last year, incidents that the Environmental Protection Agency suspects is a sign of increasing resistance to the insecticide.

The damaged fields in Illinois have been planted with corn continuously for at least 10 years, including six consecutive years with corn engineered to produce the Cry3Bb1 protein from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a natural insecticide, Gray said.

“Under these conditions, the selection pressure for resistance development is markedly increased,” he said.

[Read More…]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

No easy fix for superweeds

Super weeds no easy fix for US agriculture-experts
By Carey Gillam
Reuters
May 10 2012

WASHINGTON - A fast-spreading plague of “super weeds” taking over U.S. farmland will not be stopped easily, and farmers and government officials need to change existing practices if food production is to be protected, industry experts said on Thursday.

“This is a complex problem,” said weed scientist David Shaw in remarks to a national “summit” of weed experts in Washington to come up with a plan to battle weeds that have developed resistance to herbicides.

Weed resistance has spread to more than 12 million U.S. acres and primarily afflicts key agricultural areas in the U.S. Southeast and the corn and soybean growing areas of the Midwest.

Many of the worst weeds, some of which grow more than six feet and can sharply reduce crop yields, have become resistant to the popular glyphosate-based weed-killer Roundup, as well as other common herbicides.

[Read More…]

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Selling out to Big Ag

How your college is selling out to Big Ag
By Tom Philpott
Mother Jones
May 09, 2012

Major universities have become de facto R&D and marketing outposts for companies like Monsanto

Last week, the University of Illinois’ College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) in Champaign-Urbana made a momentous announcement: it has accepted a $250,000 grant from genetically modified seed/agrichemical giant Monsanto to create an endowed chair for the “Agricultural Communications Program” it runs with the College of Communications.

The university’s press release quotes Monsanto’s vice president of technology communications giving a taste of its vision for the investment:

With the population expecting to reach 9 billion by 2030, farmers from Illinois and beyond will be asked to produce more crops while using fewer resources. At Monsanto we are committed to bringing farmers advanced ag technologies to help them meet this challenge. Effectively communicating farmers’ efforts to feed, clothe and fuel a rapidly growing population is a major part of the solution.

A cynic might translate that statement this way: In order to maintain our highly profitable and hotly contested business model, we’ll need a new generation of PR professionals to construct and disseminate our marketing message.

Read the article

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Soil ecosystem threatened

Monsanto Bt crops: genetically modified corn linked to soil ecosystem threat
By Ryan Villarreal
International Business Times
April 17, 2012

Bioengineering agricultural giant Monsanto has touted the safety of genetically modified crops, but a new study has found that insecticide-containing corn can be harmful to the overall health of soil ecosystems.

Genetically modified corn has been linked to a decrease in a subterranean fungus that forms a symbiotic bond with plant roots, allowing them to draw in more nutrients and water from the surrounding soil in exchange for carbon.

Researchers at Portland State University conducted a study to examine the effects of corn genetically engineered with the bacteria-derived insecticidal toxin, Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, on growth of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF).

AMF is important for the overall health and fertility of soil ecosystems, and was found to form less bonds with the roots of Bt corn than with non-Bt corn.

[Read More…]

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