Tag Archives | Agriculture

Monsanto Corn Falls to Illinois Bugs

Tom Philpott writes in Mother Jones:

As the summer growing season draws to a close, 2011 is emerging as the year of the super-insect — the year pests officially developed resistance to Monsanto’s genetically engineered (ostensibly) bug-killing corn.

While the revelation has given rise to alarming headlines, neither Monsanto nor the EPA, which regulates pesticides and pesticide-infused crops, can credibly claim surprise. Scientists have been warning that the EPA’s rules for planting the crop were too lax to prevent resistance since before the agency approved the crop in 2003. And in 2008, research funded by Monsanto itself showed that resistance was an obvious danger.

And now those unheeded warnings are proving prescient. In late July, as I reported recently, scientists in Iowa documented the existence of corn rootworms (a ravenous pest that attacks the roots of corn plants) that can happily devour corn plants that were genetically tweaked specifically to kill them.

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Monsanto Modified Corn Losing Bug Resistance

CornAgribusiness monster corporation Monsanto is in peril of creating a worse problem than it purports to solve with its genetically modified corn plants. Scott Kilman reports for the Wall Street Journal:

Widely grown corn plants that Monsanto Co. genetically modified to thwart a voracious bug are falling prey to that very pest in a few Iowa fields, the first time a major Midwest scourge has developed resistance to a genetically modified crop.

The discovery raises concerns that the way some farmers are using biotech crops could spawn superbugs.

Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann’s discovery that western corn rootworms in four northeast Iowa fields have evolved to resist the natural pesticide made by Monsanto’s corn plant could encourage some farmers to switch to insect-proof seeds sold by competitors of the St. Louis crop biotechnology giant, and to return to spraying harsher synthetic insecticides on their fields.

“These are isolated cases, and it isn’t clear how widespread the problem will become,” said Dr.

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Monsanto Monster Weeds Spreading Fast

MonsantoMichael J. Coren warns that Monsanto’s Roundup was supposed to make it easy for farmers to get rid of weeds, but it’s working on fewer and fewer plants, including some monsters that can grow three inches a day and destroy farm equipment, for Fast Company:

For decades, farmers had it relatively easy when it came to weeds infesting their soil: apply herbicides, wait for the weeds to die and grow more crops. Those salad days, alas, are coming to an end.

A new series of studies released by Weed Science this month finds at least 21 weed species have become resistant to the popular herbicide glyphosate (sold as Monsanto’s Roundup), and a growing number survive multiple herbicides, so-called “super-weeds.” The same selection pressure creating bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics is leading to the rapid evolution of plants that survive modern herbicides. If the trend continues, yields could drop and food costs climb as weeds grow more difficult to uproot.

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Should We Say “Maybe” to Drugs in Afghanistan?

Afghan PoppiesThere’s a global morphine shortage in the west (while the Taliban is financing terrorism through black-market opium). So for over a year, a mainstream journalist for both Information Week and Library Journal has been contacting Congressmen about the “Sustainable Opportunities for Rural Afghans Act.” (“Whereas granting rural Afghan farming families an economic ally other than the Taliban is good for the national security of the United States…”)

Basically, the act would allow American pharmaceutical companies to buy opium from the farmers in Afghanistan — and even offer aid and bonuses to the farmers to deter their cooperation with the Taliban (before eventually transitioning them to other crops). “Action has been nil and talk has been quiet,” the reporter writes, even though it could help efforts to “defeat, disrupt, and dismantle” al Qaeda and its allies.

“As we press our advantage after the death of bin Laden, it seems reasonable to use every available tool toward our stated goal.”

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Toxin From Genetically Modified Crops Detected In Canadians’ Blood

bigredbarnUntil now, scientists and multinational corporations promoting GM crops have maintained that Bt toxin poses no danger to human health as the protein breaks down in the human gut. But the presence of this toxin in human blood shows that this does not happen.

Eating GM corn, soy, and potatoes is perfectly safe, provided you don’t mind having a powerful toxin swirling in your bloodstream. Oh, and your unborn baby’s bloodstream as well. So says a debbie-downer peer-reviewed Canadian study, India Today reports:

Fresh doubts have arisen about the safety of genetically modified crops, with a new study reporting presence of Bt toxin, used widely in GM crops, in human blood for the first time.

Scientists from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada, have detected the insecticidal protein, Cry1Ab, circulating in the blood of pregnant as well as non-pregnant women. They have also detected the toxin in fetal blood, implying it could pass on to the next generation.

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If The White House Garden Was Planted With Subsidized Crops…

With thanks to @SlowFoodUSA, the image below shows what the White House Garden would look like if it was planted with subsidized crops from the Food and Farm Bill. When will we break this crazy taxpayer-funded transfer of wealth to agribusiness that is ruining the health of our precious farmland (and the animals and humans who depend on it)?

Source: Kitchen Gardeners (http://kitchengardeners.org/)

Source: Kitchen Gardeners (http://kitchengardeners.org/)

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Genetically Induced Drought-Resistant Corn Could Feed Our Future

Photo: JLantzy

Photo: JLantzy

Could genetic modification be the only way to save our food during the drought-full future? The Scientific American reports:

Climate change has yet to diminish crop yields in the U.S. corn belt but scientists expect drought to become more common due to global warming in coming years. That could impact everything from the price of food to the price of fuel planet-wide. As a result, for the last several years agribusiness giants like Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta have been pursuing genetic modification to enable the corn plant to thrive even without enough rain. And now the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering approving a new corn hybrid genetically engineered to thrive on less water—the first time such a corn strain would be available.

“Working on something like drought is more complex than introducing a trait like insect resistance,” says plant breeder Bob Reiter, vice president of biotechnology at Monsanto, the company seeking approval for the new strain.

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China Farmers Facing ‘Exploding’ Watermelon Problem (Video)

GallagherGallagher is not responsible. At least it's not exploding people. Reports the AP via Yahoo News:
BEIJING — The overuse of a chemical that helps fruit grow faster is causing a rash of exploding watermelons in eastern China. An investigative report by China Central Television airing Tuesday found farms in Jiangsu province were losing acres of fruit to the problem. It said farmers sprayed too much growth promoter, hoping they could get fruit to market ahead of season and make more money. China is battling rampant misuse of pesticides, fertilizers and food additives, like dyes and sweeteners, meant to make food more attractive and boost sales.
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Cambridgeshire Farm Seeks Online Farmers

myfarm-logoWhat happens when Farmville becomes reality and not just a game? National Trust create MyFarm, an actual working farm that has 10,000 virtual farmers. BBC reports:
A National Trust farm is to be run by online subscribers voting on which crops to grow and livestock to rear.
For a £30 annual fee, 10,000 farm followers will help manage Wimpole Home Farm, in Cambridgeshire. The National Trust says its MyFarm project aims to reconnect people with where their food comes from. It was partly inspired by the online Facebook game Farmville and follows the example of Ebbsfleet Football Club which is run on a similar basis. Decisions about the running of the team in Kent has been in the hands of MyFootballClub subscribers since 2008.
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Open-Sourced Blueprints for Civilization (Video)

Via TED:
Using wikis and digital fabrication tools, TED Fellow Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing the blueprints for 50 farm machines, allowing anyone to build their own tractor or harvester from scratch. And that's only the first step in a project to write an instruction set for an entire self-sustaining village (starting cost: $10,000).
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