The United States has a law against bioterrorism. It is basically to ensure that no unwanted alien invasive species -- later assuming menacing proportions -- enters America. Such is the hysteria surrounding the alien species that the US uses all kinds of non-tariff barriers to stop the entry of agricultural commodities that are likely to come with hitherto unknown pests and diseases.
It however doesn't mind exporting its inferior quality farm products, which comes laced with deadly alien species. That is a topic we will discuss some other day. But first let us look at the bioterrorism that one of its own multinational seed and technology company is unleashing and that too within the country, and the US Department of Agriculture is refusing to acknowledge its destructive prowess.
Monsanto, a company that Bill Clinton acknowledged would lead the US into 21st century, has already transformed cotton and soybean plots into weed battlefields. Called superweeds, because these are not controlled by any pesticide, these plants have alarmingly appeared in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri. Superweeds are also being encountered in neighbouring Canada. And it will soon be the turn of India, where large-scale trials of Monanto's RoundupReady corn and cotton are in progress.
Isn't it strange that a country which enacts a law on bioterrorism, remains a mute spectator to a terrible dance of bioterrorism being enacted within its borders by one of its own companies? Isn't this huge superweed battlefield a good enough indication of the kind of bioterrorism being unleashed by Monsanto? What kind of bioterrorism law the US has enacted, when it fails to nip the evil right in its own heartland? Well, such is the power of multinationals, that the USDA and even the White House prefers to look the other way. Meanwhile, newspaper reports say that 10,000 acres of land have been abandoned by farmers in Macon county, the epicentre of the superweed terror. Another 100,000 acres are in Georgia are severly infested with pigweed superweed, and 28 counties have confirmed resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundupReady.
After the US farmers, it will be turn of small farmers in India. Knowing the role agricultural scientists and the Department of Biotechnology are playing, the threat of superweeds is looming large. But who cares? The scientists will retire gracefully, and many of them will join the MNCs post-retirement, and the real cost of introducing and pushing RoundupReady GM crops will be borne by the Indian farmers. Mark my words, another round of suicides on the farm is surely on the card, thanks to the Indian scientists and DBT.
I bring you a very informative newsreport about the menace of superweeds in America. It should open our eyes to the threat ahead.
‘Superweed’ explosion threatens Monsanto heartlands
Sunday 19 April 2009
By Clea CAULCUTT (text)
“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.
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.
“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 epicentre of the superweed explosion, North Carolina State University’s Alan York told local media.
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 metres high and easily smother young cotton plants.
Today, farmers are struggling to find an effective herbicide they can safely use over cotton plants.
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.
FRANCE 24 report: French scientist Eric Seralini says research shows Roundup herbicide is highly toxic to human beings.
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.”