Friday, April 30, 2010

Monsanto’s Grip on American Agriculture is Tightening... With a Little Help From the USDA.

CarolineJust when it seems that the U.S. government is taking two steps forward in regulating the products and practices of the Monsanto Company (the Department of Justice is currently investigating Monsanto for its monopolistic business tactics and antitrust violations, and the Supreme Court is hearing the first-ever case on the safety of the genetically-engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa this week), Washington takes one step backwards with its latest disregard of research suggesting that Monsanto's Roundup herbicide is doing more harm than help to the land we farm.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has been widely used on lawns, gardens, and farms as a weed-killer since 1976. The herbicide has been touted by industry and government researchers for its quick dissipation rates and low toxicity to humans, making Roundup the top-selling herbicide worldwide since 1980, with estimates of over 200 million pounds spread in the US in 2008 alone.

A recent post on Grist reveals the research of USDA scientist Dr. Robert Kremer. After 15 years of research looking into glyphosate, Kremer's findings come down hard on its use, noting the damage the herbicide causes to beneficial soil microbes and its interference with nutrient uptake by the plant, including a reduction in the efficiency of symbiotic nitrogen fixation and a decrease in overall plant productivity.

Not to mention, a 2008 study by Friends of the Earth International and the Center for Food Safety, which notes the increased use in herbicides, like Roundup, and genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops, like Roundup Ready soybeans, corn, and alfalfa, has resulted in 8 species of weeds in the United States that are resistant to glyphosate. This means that soon we will be exposed to food that has been doused in new herbicides in higher doses in order to kill these resulting "superweeds".

Dr. Kremer has published his research, and recommendations to farmers, in the Journal of European Agronomy, but his own employer (USDA) refuses to circulate his work — which certainly raises a red flag with us here at Farm Aid!

While the USDA has affirmed the validity of Dr. Kremer's research, the agency has been unwilling to publicize or publish these findings, choosing to ignore the evidence stacked against the spraying of glyphosate and the use of associated genetically engineered seeds. In doing so, the USDA is promoting Monsanto’s unregulated products and further encouraging farmers to, as Grist puts it, "stay on the ever-accelerating and increasingly damaging chemical treadmill."

Let us know what you think about the use of Roundup and the actions (or inactions!) taken by the USDA.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:33 PM

    Weed resistance is not unique to biotechnology or glyphosate. Weeds, plant pathogens and insects are continually adapting and necessitating new control methods. Global population and associated food demand is going to grow considerably in the next few decades. The real question here is whether society is going to embrace the use of technology that will enhance agricultural productivity to meet that demand.

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  2. I've read that the percentage of crops lost to insects today roughly matches the percentage from pre-insecticde days due to built-up immunity. Of course the crops are larger, so we should still be ahead, unless the nutrition has decreased, as some folks say. Sort of all makes me wonder if anything except good farming practices really matters.

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