Thursday, April 23, 2009

Monsanto Creates Epidemics; Argentina, Australia, US

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WA premier calls for GM product ban


Annolies Truman
7 June 2008


On June 2, the West Australian reported that WA Premier Alan Carpenter had called for a nationwide suspension of approvals for foods containing genetically modified (GM) crops until more health research was carried out. Carpenter said the national food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand should not approve any more food for human consumption until independent scientific trials were conducted to better determine the safety of GM foods.

The article quoted Carpenter as saying: “There are still unresolved issues and questions about the effect of genetically modified foods on human beings.” He added that GM ingredients could be found in common foods including corn chips, breakfast cereals, taco shells, margarine, biscuits, soy products and oils.

On June 6 WA Conservation Council representative Dr Maggie Lilith presented the Carpenter government with a letter asking it to extend the current ban on GM crops, which will expire in early 2009 at the latest, for a further 10 years.

Last month Lilith attended an international conference on GM agriculture in Germany where she obtained signatures on the letter from representatives of 75 countries.

Lilith told Green Left Weekly that many of WA’s export markets rejected GM crops. “These markets will be lost to Australia with the adoption of GM agriculture”, she said. “In 10 years time we can base a decision regarding GM crops on independent scientific research into the impacts … on people and the environment.”

Say No to GMO activist Janet Grogan told GLW: “It’s fantastic the premier has raised the labelling issue. This is extremely important, but we must keep pushing for the moratorium on growing GMO crops to be extended — and that includes cotton!

“The support [Lilith] was able to get from international figures at the conference she attended in Bonn last month is a great win for the campaign.”

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Monsanto's Crops Spawning Superweed Epidemic in U.S.

EXTRACT: In 2007, 10,000 acres of land were abandoned in Macon country, the epicenter of the superweed explosion, North Carolina State University's Alan York told local media.

'Superweed' explosion threatens Monsanto heartlands
France 24, 19 April 2009
http://tiny.cc/vTMid

"Superweeds" are plaguing high-tech Monsanto crops in southern US states, driving farmers to use more herbicides, return to conventional crops or even abandon their farms.

The gospel of high-tech genetically modified (GM) crops is not sounding quite so sweet in the land of the converted. A new pest, the evil pigweed, is hitting headlines and chomping its way across Sun Belt states, threatening to transform cotton and soybean plots into weed battlefields.

In late 2004, "superweeds" that resisted Monsanto's iconic "Roundup" herbicide, popped up in GM crops in the county of Macon, Georgia. Monsanto, the US multinational biotech corporation, is the world's leading producer of Roundup, as well as genetically engineered seeds. Company figures show that nine out of 10 US farmers produce Roundup Ready seeds for their soybean crops.

Superweeds have since alarmingly appeared in other parts of Georgia, as well as South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, according to media reports. Roundup contains the active ingredient glyphosate, which is the most used herbicide in the USA.

GM protesters demonstrate near the French town of Toulouse in March 2008. How has this happened? Farmers over-relied on Monsanto's revolutionary and controversial combination of a single "round up" herbicide and a high-tech seed with a built-in resistance to glyphosate, scientists say.

Today, 100,000 acres in Georgia are severely infested with pigweed and 29 counties have now confirmed resistance to glyphosate, according to weed specialist Stanley Culpepper from the University of Georgia. http://mulch.cropsoil.uga.edu/weedsci/

"Farmers are taking this threat very seriously. It took us two years to make them understand how serious it was. But once they understood, they started taking a very aggressive approach to the weed," Culpepper told FRANCE 24.

"Just to illustrate how aggressive we are, last year we hand-weeded 45% of our severely infested fields," said Culpepper, adding that the fight involved "spending a lot of money."

In 2007, 10,000 acres of land were abandoned in Macon country, the epicenter of the superweed explosion, North Carolina State University's Alan York told local media. http://deltafarmpress.com/cotton/palmer-amaranth-1226/

The perfect weed

Had Monsanto wanted to design a deadlier weed, they probably could not have done better. Resistant pigweed is the most feared superweed, alongside horseweed, ragweed and waterhemp.

"Palmer pigweed is the one pest you don't want, it is so dominating," says Culpepper. Pigweed can produce 10,000 seeds at a time, is drought-resistant, and has very diverse genetics. It can grow to three meters high and easily smother young cotton plants.

Today, farmers are struggling to find an effective herbicide they can safely use over cotton plants.

Controversial solutions

In an interview with FRANCE 24, Monsanto's technical development manager, Rick Cole, said he believed superweeds were manageable. "The problem of weeds that have developed a resistance to Roundup crops is real and [Monsanto] doesn't deny that, however the problem is manageable," he said.

Cole encourages farmers to alternate crops and use different makes of herbicides.

Indeed, according to Monsanto press releases, company sales representatives are encouraging farmers to mix glyphosate and older herbicides such as 2,4-D, a herbicide which was banned in Sweden, Denmark and Norway over its links to cancer, reproductive harm and mental impairment. 2,4-D is also well-known for being a component of Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide which was used in chemical warfare in Vietnam in the 1960s.

Questioned on the environmental impact and toxicity of such mixtures, Monsanto's public affairs director, Janice Person, said that "they didn't recommend any mixtures that were not approved by the EPA," she said, referring to the US federal Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the UK-based Soil Association, which campaigns for and certifies organic food, Monsanto was well aware of the risk of superweeds as early as 2001 and took out a patent on mixtures of glyphosate and herbicide targeting glyphosate-resistant weeds.

"The patent will enable the company to profit from a problem that its products had created in the first place," says a 2002 Soil Association report.

Returning to conventional crops

In the face of the weed explosion in cotton and soybean crops, some farmers are even considering moving back to non-GM seeds. "It's good for us to go back, people have overdone the Roundup seeds," Alan Rowland, a soybean seed producer based in Dudley, Missouri, told FRANCE 24. He used to sell 80% Monsanto "Roundup Ready" soybeans and now has gone back to traditional crops, in a market overwhelmingly dominated by Monsanto.

According to a number of agricultural specialists, farmers are considering moving back to conventional crops. But it's all down to economics, they say. GM crops are becoming expensive, growers say.

While farmers and specialists are reluctant to blame Monsanto, Rowland says he's started to "see people rebelling against the higher costs."

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Monsanto Herbicide Used in Argentina Cause Birth Defects
Latin American Herald Tribune

BUENOS AIRES – The herbicide used on [Monsanto] genetically modified soy – Argentina’s main crop – could cause brain, intestinal and heart defects in fetuses, according to the results of a scientific investigation released Monday.

Although the study “used amphibian embryos,” the results “are completely comparable to what would happen in the development of a human embryo,” embryology professor Andres Carrasco, one of the study’s authors, told Efe.

“The noteworthy thing is that there are no studies of embryos on the world level and none where glyphosate is injected into embryos,” said the researcher with the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research and director of the Molecular Embryology Laboratory.

The doses of herbicide used in the study “were much lower than the levels used in the fumigations,” and so the situation “is much more serious” that the study suggests because “glyphosate does not degrade,” Carrasco warned.

In Argentina, farmers each year use between 180 and 200 million liters of glyphosate, which was developed by the multinational Monsanto and sold in the United States under the brand name Roundup.

Carrasco said that the research found that “pure glyphosate, in doses lower than those used in fumigation, causes defects ... (and) could be interfering in some normal embryonic development mechanism having to do with the way in which cells divide and die.”

“The companies say that drinking a glass of glyphosate is healthier than drinking a glass of milk, but the fact is that they’ve used us as guinea pigs,” he said.

He gave as an example what occurred in Ituzaingo, a district where 5,000 people live on the outskirts of the central Argentine city of Cordoba, where over the past eight years about 300 cases of cancer associated with fumigations with pesticides have turned up.

“In communities like Ituzaingo it’s already too late, but we have to have a preventive system, to demand that the companies give us security frameworks and, above all, to have very strict regulations for fumigation, which nobody is adhering to out of ignorance or greed,” he said.

The researcher also said that, apart from the research he carried out, “there has to be a serious study” on the effects of glyphosate on human beings, adding that “the state has all the mechanisms for that.”

In the face of the volley of judicial complaints related to the disproportionate use of agrochemicals in the cultivation of GM soy, last February the Health Ministry created a group to investigate the problem in four Argentine provinces.

Argentina is the world’s third-largest exporter of soy. EFE

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