The problem with monoculture

I’ve been meaning to write a post on monoculture for quite some time. In fact, I began writing this post over 8 months ago, but for various reasons this topic never made the top of my priority list. This tweet by Michael Pollan finally prompted me to revisit this topic: Grist take on the Harmon OJ piece, reminding us that the real problem to which GM is “the solution”is monoculture. http://t.co/lQDg48SdgI — Michael Pollan (@michaelpollan) July 29, 2013 Pollan was …

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Carl Zimmer brings a refreshing bit of perspective to the discussion of herbicide resistant weeds

Weeds have been in the media quite a lot lately. Usually related to some sensational story about “superweeds” and how they’re “winning.” So it was extremely refreshing to read the measured take by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times Environment section, titled “Looking for Ways to Beat the Weeds.” Zimmer doesn’t resort to over-the-top statements and headlines as link-bait, and instead presents an interesting and accurate assessment of many of the problems with weeds. Perhaps most refreshing? He doesn’t …

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The evidence of GMO harm in pig study is pretty flimsy

The latest really scary paper regarding GMOs has been circulated widely on Twitter today, primarily by the usual suspects (Bittman, Pollan, and many others). The paper (available here, on the blog of the primary author Judy Carman) is titled “A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet.”  The study has already been criticized for various reasons by David Tribe and Mark Lynas. The authors of the study fed pigs for nearly 2 years 22.7 weeks with either …

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Laurie Garrett gets things surprisingly wrong on the Colbert Report

Strange times indeed. I woke up this morning to find several folks in my twitter stream alerting me to an interview on the “Colbert Report.” The interview was supposed to be about the GM wheat found recently in Oregon. Near the beginning of the interview, Colbert asks (humorously) how the GM wheat survived, wondering if it had been “doing a Rambo out there, living on mud puddles and grubs?” Laurie Garrett immediately goes completely off-topic and responds: Garrett: “The one thing …

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Glyphosate resistant wheat found in Oregon

USDA-APHIS announced recently that volunteer wheat growing in an Oregon field has been confirmed to be resistant to glyphosate. Reports indicate the glyphosate resistance is due to the same transgenic event that was used in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready wheat. More information from the National Association of Wheat Growers and Agri-Pulse. The good news is that this wheat event has already been reviewed by the FDA (back in 2004) and found to be as safe as conventional wheat for food and …

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Supreme Court sides with Monsanto about seed patents

This wasn’t really a surprise to anyone, but the Supreme Court released their decision and opinion in the Bowman v. Monsanto Co. case. The case revolved around a farmer purchasing soybean seed from a local elevator, planting the seed, spraying it with Roundup, then harvesting the seed to plant the following season. He did this for several seasons in a row. The supreme court ruled unanimously (9-0) that what the farmer did violated patent law. The supreme court decision (authored by …

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Where are the super weeds?

In a recent issue of Nature, Natasha Gilbert took “A hard look at GM crops.” Ms. Gilbert states: “it can be hard to see where scientific evidence ends and dogma and speculation begin.”   “Researchers, farmers, activists and GM seed companies all stridently promote their views, but the scientific data are often inconclusive or contradictory. Complicated truths have long been obscured by the fierce rhetoric.” I agree wholeheartedly. Especially when browsing the internet, there is a lot of misinformation, half-truths, and …

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Using ethofumesate when irrigating for emergence

by Andrew Kniss & Abdel Mesbah At a recent meeting in Powell, I was asked how to best use ethofumesate (active ingredient in Nortron SC and other herbicides) in fields that must be furrow irrigated for sugarbeet emergence. This is a difficult question. Ethofumesate (and almost all soil applied herbicides) require soil moisture to be effective. Ideally, residual herbicides should be applied to the soil shortly before either rainfall or overhead irrigation. Growers who have sprinkler systems in their field …

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If you’re a frog in a field, there are many ways to croak

Just saw a link to a story on the Guardian titled “Common pesticides ‘can kill frogs within an hour’“. Obviously, my interest was peaked. Global amphibian decline is a well-noted phenomenon, and it is possible that pesticides may play some role. But killing frogs “within an hour” is a pretty shocking result for a pesticide that is used properly. The Guardian piece reports on a study published today in Scientific Reports by Carsten Bruhl et al. The study aimed to study …

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