Only Monsanto could figure out a way to profit from its self-created disasters. But that is exactly what Monsanto is doing in the Southeastern United States, where a "superweed" known as Palmer amaranth pigweed is ravaging cotton and soybean fields, often leaving them completely unfit for further cultivation. And it's spreading like, well, a true superweed. Tens of thousands of acres of farmland are simply being abandoned as farmers simply give up the war with this weed.
This strain of weed has been created by the overuse of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, and the attendant use of its patented Roundup-resistant genetically modified organisms (GMO's).
This new strain of pigweed, resistant to Roundup (chemical name glyphosate), can only now be battled by applying even more cocktails of herbicides, containing many toxic, and even banned, ingredients. And how did Monsanto respond to this? Why, by knowing this disaster was coming and patenting the "new" recipes of herbicide cocktails which now must be used!
These Superweeds have now been sprouting up not only in Georgia, but South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri.
You can find articles about this in the agricultural press, like this:
"The epicenter of glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed is Macon County, Ga. That site is now 70 percent to 80 percent resistant and over 10,000 acres were abandoned in 2007."
Palmer amaranth is suspected to be resistant on 300,000 acres in 20 counties in Georgia; 130,000 acres in nine counties in South Carolina; 200,000 acres in 22 counties in North Carolina.
Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth (pigweed) is Georgia’s most problematic weed in cotton and is spreading rapidly. Two Palmer amaranth per 20 row feet of cotton can reduce yield at least 23%, and in dryland production in GA, a single female plant can produce 450,000 seeds when competing with DP 555 BRR cotton for the entire season. Spread of this resistant pest is rapid through traditional means such as custom harvesting, lack of cleaning equipment, and spreading of infested materials, but the resistance trait is also moving rapidly via pollen.
But the best article I've encountered is here:
And here's the real infuriating part of the mess. Monsanto says it's really not a big deal. Just come to Monsanto! They'll help you manage it!
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.
Now here's where it really gets good:
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.
Unbelievable. The report is titled "Seeds of doubt: North American farmers' experiences of GM crops", and is available as a .PDF from the link. I highly recommend reading the whole thing. It is a study of the U.S. (the "guinea pigs") in regards to the U.K. trying to decide if and how to allow GM crops into their world. Here is just a summary statement from the first page:
The evidence we set out suggests that,
in reality, virtually every benefit claimed
for GM crops has not occurred. Instead,
farmers are reporting lower yields,
continuing dependency on herbicides and
pesticides, loss of access to markets and,
critically, reduced profitability leaving food
production even more vulnerable to the
interests of the biotechnology companies
and in need of subsidies.
Here are some lovely tidbits from just the first few pages:
• All non-GM farmers are finding it very
hard or impossible to grow GM-free crops.
Seeds have become almost completely
contaminated with GMOs, good non-GM
varieties have become hard to buy, and
there is a high risk of crop contamination.
• Because of the lack of segregation, the
whole food processing and distribution
system has become vulnerable to costly
and disruptive contamination incidents.
In September 2000, just one per cent
of unapproved GM maize contaminated
almost half the national maize supply
and cost the company, Aventis, up to $1 billion.
• One of the most unpleasant outcomes of
the introduction of GM crops has been the
accusations of farmers infringing company
patent rights. A non-GM farmer whose
crop was contaminated by GMOs was
sued by Monsanto for $400,000
Here's another interesting fact. It relates to the fact that many of us who were nervous about unleashing GMO's into the ecosystem felt that such a "genie out-of-the-bottle" event should not occur without a GREAT deal of study beforehand. Nobody knew what the unintended consequences of this might be, or what harmful side affects might occur. Well, check this out:
Research published by University of
Arkansas scientists in 2000 revealed another
unintended side effect: the glyphosate
herbicide disrupts the nitrogen fixation
process in RR (Roundup Ready) soya. Root development,
nodulation and nitrogen fixation were
found to be impaired in some RR varieties,
and this is exacerbated in dry or low fertility
conditions. According to the study, this is
caused by sensitivity of the bacteria that
fix the nitrogen, Bradyrhizobium japonicum,
to Roundup.17 The data revealed that the
effect of the delay and decrease in nitrogen
fixation means yields can be down by up
to 25 per cent. Unfortunately, this
information was only available after 100
million acres of RR soya had already been
planted in America.
For those who aren't familiar with the botany referred to here, for millenia, since the dawn of agriculture, a major tool in the farmer's toolbox is to use legume plants to "fix" nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil. Soy plants are such a legume. This is one of the few ways that nitrogen, a necessary component to plant growth, can be fixed into the soil. Farmers often rotate their crops, using seasons of legume planting, in order to add more nitrogen into otherwise depleted soil. But it turns out that Monsanto's ubiquitous Roundup disrupts this process, actually affecting the bacteria that do this.
Here's another unforeseen side affect of using GM crops in soy:
University of Georgia scientists were
alerted by farmers in the southern US
states to unexpected soya crop losses and
reports of RR soya plants splitting in hot
temperatures. On investigation, the scientists
found that RR soya plants are producing up
to 20 per cent more lignin than other soya
plants. This makes the stems more brittle,
causing stunting and splitting at a far higher
rate than normal soya in hot weather and
leading to crop losses of up to 40 per cent.
The researchers concluded that the inserted
gene that gave resistance to glyphosate was
affecting a major metabolic pathway in the
plant which had the side effect of sending
lignin production into overdrive.
Like I said, we Americans are Monsanto's guinea pigs.
This all ties into the last diary I wrote, which was about other evils of The Most Evil Corporation in the World. It's quite a bit more sickening than this, especially the part about how farmers in India are committing suicide by the thousands after being conned into using Monsanto's "magic" seeds.
"Genetically engineered crops represent a huge
and uncontrolled experiment whose outcome
is inherently unpredictable."
Dr Barry Commoner, biologist,
City University of New York, 2002
The entire report is simply a thoroughly damning, scientifically documented case against the use of GMO's, which are not only creating superweeds and leading to even more lethal pesticides being used, but is also, now, contaminating the world's food supply with its DNA. The .pdf link for the report is here - 15.6 megabytes.
This is getting kind of long for a Dailykos diary, so I'll just leave you with this: A new documentary is about to be released, called "Food Inc." According to Daily Variety, it will do "for the supermarket what "Jaws" did for the beach". And one of the main focuses of the film? Monsanto:
Fast food is presented as having turned meat production into a sadistic exercise in animal torture, something that’s been seen in documentaries before, and it isn’t pretty. But "Food, Inc." delves deeply into the case of Monsanto, which has monopolized the growing of corn by patenting the biology inside it — and has been allowed to litigate against insurgent farmers through court decisions rendered by the likes of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a onetime Monsanto lawyer. The whole system, "Food, Inc." tells us, is fixed.
That's the bottom line. The whole system is fixed.
As I stated in the other diary, here is one place that I know of where you can go to take some action: