Want to reduce herbicide resistance? Spray more herbicides!

A while ago, I wrote a post summarizing the pros and cons of using a regulatory framework to slow the evolution of herbicide resistant weeds. As a part of that post, I suggested there exists a “resistance management paradox.” In a nutshell, to reduce the problem of herbicide resistant weeds, one important strategy may be to actually use more herbicide. From my previous post: “The only way to assuredly prevent herbicide resistance from evolving is never to apply the herbicide; but if we are going to …

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Dead plants are probably bad for earthworms

I’ve gotten a number of questions recently about a new study titled “Glyphosate-based herbicides reduce the activity and reproduction of earthworms and lead to increased soil nutrient concentrations” that was recently published in the online journal Scientific Reports. Although the title seems pretty straightforward, there are some flaws in the study design that preclude any broad conclusions from this research. I would especially be cautious of making statements like Roundup is “imperiling streams, lakes, [and] aquifers” or that there are “far-reaching consequences of [glyphosate] use in ecosystems” …

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I Am Biased and So Are You: thoughts on funding and influence in science

This is the third (and probably final) post in a series on industry funding of my weed science program. The previous posts on this topic are here (Part 1: On transparency, intimidation, and being called a shill) and here (Part 2: Who funds my weed science program?). In this post, I’ll mostly describe some of my personal experiences. It is important to note that my experiences are not necessarily representative of others. I suspect that my experiences might be similar to other scientists with similar roles, but …

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Who funds my weed science program?

Since 2012, around two-thirds of my research funding has come from competitive grants. By competitive grants, I mean projects that I’ve developed and submitted to an agency for funding consideration. Many other people submit applications, too, and the funding agency selects the projects they feel are most worthy. Most of my competitive grants are from public funding sources like USDA-NIFA, state department of agriculture, or the state Agricultural Experiment Station; but some competitive grants are also funded by local and regional grower groups. …

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On transparency, intimidation, and being called a shill

A while back, a group of scientists involved in research or communication about various aspects of biotechnology (GMOs) were the subjects of freedom of information requests. Keith Kloor, who broke the story in Science, also posted one of the letters sent to the University of Illinois. The request asks for all emails in the last 2+ years between the scientists and a long list of companies. Gary Ruskin, an activist funded by the Organic Consumers Association, is making these requests while suggesting the …

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GMOs, Herbicides, and the New England Journal of Medicine

An opinion piece was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, written by Dr. Philip Landrigan (an M.D.) and Dr. Charles Benbrook (PhD) titled “GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health”. I was asked to review the piece this week, and I can only assume it will eventually make the rounds on social media. So I thought it was worth commenting here since it is related to herbicides and herbicide-resistant GMO crops. The “Perspective” piece is basically a plea from Dr. Landrigan and Dr. …

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An Evaluation of the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ)

I’ve always been interested in how changes in agricultural production practices impact the environment. In particular, I’ve followed the adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops since I was an undergraduate, and try to stay up to date on research relating to the environmental impact associated with these crops. Several publications over the last decade have relied on the environmental impact quotient (EIQ) to quantify the environmental impact of changes in pesticide use resulting from GM crops. The EIQ originated with a …

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Trends in corn herbicide use (1990 to 2014)

USDA-NASS recently published the most recent corn herbicide use data (from 2014). I’ve been looking through the data, because, well, free data! Perhaps the figure below isn’t the ideal way to present it, but there are some interesting trends that can be observed this way. Total herbicide use in corn (in weight of herbicide applied) has remained relatively constant at about 2 to 2.5 lbs/acre since around 2000 (Top panel A). There have certainly been changes in which herbicides contributed to that …

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What does Chipotle’s switch to non-GMO ingredients mean for pesticide use?

A couple weeks ago, Chipotle announced they were removing genetically engineered crops (called GMOs) from their menu. Kind of. As you might expect, the announcement was covered widely in the media. Interestingly, though, most of the coverage wasn’t very positive. There’s a fairly long list of responses to the Chipotle decision if you’d like to read more about it. A variety of issues are covered in those responses, but I wanted to take a deeper look into the impact this switch might …

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Glyphosate and Cancer: What does the data say?

A little over a week ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that glyphosate would be added to their list of agents that are “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Glyphosate wasn’t the only pesticide added to the list, but as Nathanael Johnson noted at Grist, glyphosate tends to be something of a lightning rod due to its association with genetically engineered (Roundup Ready) crops. Let me start by pointing out I’m pretty late to the party writing about this. The …

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