Category Archives: gmos

Lousy GMO news for organic

Less research means more yield.

According to new governmental regulations, companies developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will now be responsible themselves for conducting the research that APHIS will use to do their environmental impact study on the companies products. That will produce a cheaper, faster road to the marketplace for GMO seed, a growing headache for neighboring organic farmers. And it will tighten their already substantial control over all the research done, and scientific information published, on their products.

Concerns? What concerns?

Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, is quoted in Popular Science as saying, “It’s like asking BP to write an assessment of an offshore drilling operation.”

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Giving up on the “silver bullet”

Waterhemp -- refusing to lay down and die.

My institution just put out the following press release, bemoaning Waterhemp’s stubborn habit of quickly developing resistance to any herbicide we throw at it. The treadmill on which researchers and farmers find themselves just keeps spinning faster and faster, as the search for yet another silver bullet solution goes on. At least Mr. Hager concedes that, “[t]his troublesome weed requires a much more integrated approach.” Maybe they should start talking to organic farmers. They might learn something about integrated approaches.

URBANA – Waterhemp has done it again. University of Illinois researchers just published an article in Pest Management Science confirming that waterhemp is the first weed to evolve resistance to HPPD-inhibiting herbicides.

“A fifth example of resistance in one weed species is overwhelming evidence that resistance to virtually any herbicide used extensively on this species is possible,” said Aaron Hager, U of I Extension weed specialist.

Waterhemp is not a weed species that can be adequately managed with one or two different herbicides, Hager said. This troublesome weed requires a much more integrated approach.

“Large-scale agronomic crop production systems currently depend on herbicides for weed management,” Hager said. “A weakness in this approach lies in its strength; because herbicides are so effective, they exert tremendous selection pressures that, over time, result in resistant weed populations as natural outcomes of the evolutionary process.”

In an article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Hager and Pat Tranel, a U of I professor of molecular weed science in the Department of Crop Sciences, shared the results of a survey of multiple-herbicide resistance in waterhemp. The results showed that all populations resistant to glyphosate were also resistant to ALS inhibitors and 40 percent contained resistance to PPO inhibitors.

Adding HPPD resistance to the mix complicates problems for growers and scientists. When weeds stack several forms of resistance, it greatly reduces the number of viable herbicide options.

“We are  running out of options,” Hager said. “This multiple-herbicide resistance in waterhemp has the potential to become an unmanageable problem with currently available postemergence herbicides used in conventional or glyphosate-resistant soybean.”

Hager said they’ve already discovered one waterhemp biotype that’s resistant to four different herbicide families. He said growers may see five-way resistance in the future.

Fortunately, there are very few annual weed species in the United States that have shown this level of multiple resistance. Waterhemp is a dioecious species and ideally suited for evolving herbicide resistance by sharing resistance genes among populations and biotypes.

“For example, you can have HPPD resistance evolving in field A, and in adjacent field B you can have selection for glyphosate resistance,” Tranel said. “Pollen is always moving in the air, allowing pollen from field A to mix with resistant plants from field B resulting in HPPD and glyphosate resistance in the same progeny. That’s how easy it is to stack resistance.”

The pressure is on for industry to develop new options and for growers to change their practices of how they use products to control the weed spectrum, he added.

Hager, Tranel and Dean Riechers, a U of I associate professor of herbicide physiology, were recently awarded a grant from Syngenta to study how waterhemp populations evolve resistance. They will collaborate with Syngenta’s scientists to find answers regarding the genetics, inheritance, and mechanisms of resistance to HPPD inhibitors.

“We are excited for the opportunity to collaborate with industry to learn more about these resistant biotypes,” Tranel said. “We want to find practical management recommendations for growers.”

Hager said that there is only so much a person can learn by looking at different treatments in a field, but if this is not done, it’s difficult to come up with the best recommendations. The U of I weed science team’s advantage is their ability to span the range from applied field and greenhouse work to basic DNA sequencing, physiology and genetics work.

At least two companies are developing crop varieties that are resistant to HPPD inhibitors. In the future, both of these companies see HPPD-inhibiting herbicides growing in importance.

“We now have known resistance before the resistant crops are on the market,” Tranel said. “That’s a real concern.”

But Hager thinks it could be a blessing in disguise.

“We have time to learn about this type of resistance in advance before these crop varieties hit the market,” Hager said. “If these crops are commercialized, we could have the recommendations in place from the onset to slow the evolution of this resistance.”

Their research, “Resistance to HPPD-inhibiting herbicides in a population of waterhemp from Illinois, USA,” was published online on January 26 in Pest Management Science. Researchers include Tranel, Hager, Dean Riechers, Nicholas Hausman, and Sukhvinder Singh of the U of I; and Shiv Kaundun, Nicholas Polge and David Thomas of Syngenta.

“Herbicide Resistances in Amaranthus tuberculatus: A Call for new Options” was published online in November 2010 by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Researchers included Tranel, Hager, Chance Riggins and Michael Bell of the U of I.


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A kid with message

Eleven year old, Birke Baehr, does a great job outlining the problems of our food system…

If you watch it at the TED site, read the comments. Very interesting. It’s a great microcosm of the big debate going on over food right now. On one side — “We need all these chemicals to feed the world!” On the other side — “We are killing the Earth and the people with our food!”

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Monsanto offering to pay farmers to help bail them out

Hurry boys! Start bailing!

What a shame. Weed resistance to glyphosate (Roundup) is getting so bad, that Monsanto is offering to PAY soybean farmers to use herbicides other than Glyphosate…

Monsanto Co. is paying farmers to increase the number of herbicides they’re using. The rebate program is designed to prevent more acrage from getting infested with weeds that are resistant to one particularly popular herbicide, Roundup.

What a beautiful system: 1) A magical chemical that magically kills all plant life. 2) A crop genetically engineered to be resistant to the magical chemical. 3) A wise and powerful corporation who manufactured the magic chemical and controlled the genetically engineered seed. Profits abounded (for the wise and powerful corporation). Farmers enjoyed fields so perfectly clear of weeds, as to be unimaginable before the term, “Roundup Ready” hit the late night TV commercial airwaves.

The future looked so bright.

Then the cracks started to appear. Instead of one application of the magic chemical, two and three became necessary to keep the crop perfectly clean of all weeds (the new industry standard). The warnings of resistance developing in weeds went out early. In 2000, I organized a conference and brought in Chuck Benbrook. He warned about resistance. The “experts” scoffed. I had one weed scientist tell me he didn’t think resistance COULD develop because of the mode of action of Glyphosate. Smart guy. Problem is, weeds are smarter.

Now it’s clear. Even the wise and powerful corporation sees it. Nature really does bat last.

One of the great selling points of Roundup Ready was that is was going to REDUCE the amount herbicide used on major crops in agriculture. Reduce! Numerous studies showed this wasn’t the case, and now Monsanto is paying farmers to use more herbicide, to save the effectiveness of the herbicide that was going to reduce herbicide use. Brilliant. And many farmers will line up and do it because they’ll believe this…

The use of additional herbicides will not only control Roundup-resistant weeds but add to farmers’ profits by increasing their soybean yields, said Michael Owen, an Iowa State University weed specialist who has been working on a multi-state study on the weed resistance issue funded by Monsanto.  One recent analysis in Iowa found that weeds early in the growing season could cut soybean yields 6 to 8 bushels per acre, he said.

The whole thing reminds me of 1912. Human endeavor and achievement  had reached a pinnacle of impressive proportion. Was there anything man couldn’t do? The staggering hubris was “unsinkable.” Then, on her maiden voyage Titanic hit an iceberg. Three hours later she was sitting on the bottom of the Atlantic. 100 years later, things haven’t changed much. The more spectacular our mastery of nature, the more monumental the failures.

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Percy Schmeiser

Most people know about Percy Schmeiser. He’s the “David” to Monsanto’s “Goliath.” He’s been honored and vilified for years now, but the fact that he’s still out there, alive, talking about his ordeal, and smiling while doing it, is incredible. It is a testament to his character and integrity. Percy Schmeiser, I salute you.

Read the story HERE.

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