Dow and Monsanto Join Forces to Poison America’s Heartland February 24, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, Environment, Health.
Tags: 2.4-d, agent orange, agrochemicals, dow chemical, environment, food, genetic engineering, genetically modified, genetically mofified corn, herbicide, monsanto, pesticedes, richard schiffman, roger hollander, usda
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In a match that some would say was made in hell, the nation’s two leading producers of agrochemicals have joined forces in a partnership to reintroduce the use of the herbicide 2,4-D, one half of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange, which was used by American forces to clear jungle during the Vietnam War. These two biotech giants have developed a weed management program that, if successful, would go a long way toward a predicted doubling of harmful herbicide use in America’s corn belt during the next decade.
The problem for corn farmers is that “superweeds” have been developing resistance to America’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, which is being sprayed on millions of acres in the Midwest and elsewhere. Dow Agrosciences has developed a strain of corn that it says will solve the problem. The new genetically modified variety can tolerate 2,4-D, which will kill off the Roundup-resistant weeds, but leave the corn standing. Farmers who opt into this system will be required to double-dose their fields with a deadly cocktail of Roundup plus 2,4-D, both of which are manufactured by Monsanto.
But this plan has alarmed environmentalists and also many farmers, who are reluctant to reintroduce a chemical whose toxicity has been well established. The use of 2,4-D is banned in several European countries and provinces of Canada. The substance is a suspected carcinogen, which has been shown to double the incidence of birth defects in the children of pesticide applicators in a study conducted by University of Minnesota pathologist Vincent Garry.
Researchers say that the effect of 2,4-D on human health is still not fully understood. But it may be a risk factor for conditions like Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and certain leukemias, which were often found in Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that the chemical could have “endocrine disruption potential” and interfere with the human hormonal system. It may prove toxic to honeybees, birds and fish, according to research conducted by the US Forest Service and others. In 2004, a coalition of groups spearheaded by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network, wrote a letter to the EPA taking it to task for underestimating the health and environmental impacts of 2,4-D.
Large-scale industrial farming has grown dependent on ever-increasing applications of agrochemicals. Some have compared this to a drug addict who requires larger and larger fixes to stay high. Herbicide use has increased steadily over time as weeds develop resistance and need to be doused with more and deadlier chemicals to kill them. This, in turn. requires more aggressive genetic engineering of crops that can withstand the escalating chemical assault.
Many agricultural scientists warn that this growing addiction to agrochemicals is unsustainable in the long run. The fertility of the soil decreases as earthworms and vital microorganisms are killed off by pesticides and herbicides. They also pollute the groundwater and compromise the health of farm animals that are fed with the chemical-infused grain.
These impacts are poised to grow. US Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures reveal that herbicide use rose by 383 million pounds from 1996 to 2008. Significantly, nearly half of this increase (46 percent) took place between 2007 and 2008 as a result of the hawking of new herbicide-resistant crops like the new corn hybrid developed by Dow.
Nobody knows what effect introducing this hybrid would have on the health of American consumers. Corn laced with high levels of 2,4-D could taint everything from breakfast cereals to the beef of cattle, which concentrate the toxin in their flesh. Given that corn and high-fructose corn syrup are key elements in so many processed foods, some public health experts warn that all Americans will soon be guinea pigs in an ill-conceived mass experiment with one of the staples of our food supply. America’s agriculture department, the USDA is considering deregulating Monsanto’s new genetically modified corn variety (the one which will be used in conjunction with the 2,4-D) and is accepting final public comments on the matter until the 27th of this month.
Until recently, herbicide-resistant crops were popular with farmers who benefited from higher yields and nearly effortless management of weeds. But now that the weed problem is coming back with a vengeance, some are reconsidering the wisdom of this chemical-intensive mode of farming. Dow biotech corn costs nearly three times more than conventional seed. And the projected doubling of pesticide use in the years ahead will be expensive, as well as destructive to farmland and ecosystems.
There are viable alternatives to chemical-intensive farming, time-tested methods like crop rotation, use of cover crops, and other practices which allow farmers to compete naturally with weeds. The time has come for farmers to revive the knowledge of their ancestors in this regard.
Some agricultural scientists advocate developing a system of integrated weed management to replace the unsustainable use of chemicals. But the big agrochemical companies have no interest in supporting the sustainable agriculture that would put them out of business. So long as there are billions of dollars to be made in selling herbicide and herbicide-resistant genetically modified seed, there won’t be much research money available to explore the natural alternatives to the destruction of our nation’s heartland.
Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan Goes to Bat for Monsanto, Sides With Conservative Justices May 13, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, Criminal Justice, Environment, Health.
Tags: agriculture, alfalfa, biotech, clarence thomas, elena kagan, food, genetic engineering, john roberts, joshua frank, monsanto, roger hollander, scalia, supremen court, usda
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(Roger’ note: Suprme Court Justice Nominee ElenaKagan is known for her penchant for hiring white males at Harvard, her support for violating the constitution and international law with respect to torture, habeas corpus and executive power; and now we see how friendly she can be to huge corporate interests when they are challenged by environmentalists and health advocates. Thank you, President Obama.)
Thursday 13 May 2010
(Photo: Harvard Law Record)
Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop grown in the United States and Monsanto wants to control it. On April 27, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could well write the future of alfalfa production in our country.
Fortunately, for those who are concerned about the potential environmental and health impacts of genetically engineered (GE) crops, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is not yet residing on the bench.
For the past four years, the Center for Food Safety (CFS), a Washington DC-based consumer protection group, and others have litigated against Monsanto and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding the company’s Roundup Ready alfalfa. The coalition has focused their fight against Monsanto’s GE alfalfa, based on concerns that the plants could negatively impact biodiversity as well as other non-GE food crops.
In 2007, a California US District Court ruled in a landmark case that the USDA had illegally approved Monsanto’s GE alfalfa without carrying out a proper and full Environmental Impact Statement. The plaintiffs argued that GE alfalfa could contaminate nearby crops with its genetically manipulated pollen. Geertson Seed Farm, with the help of CFS, claimed that the farm’s non-GE crops could be damaged beyond repair by Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa.
Monsanto’s well-paid legal team appealed the court’s decision, but, in June 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the previous ruling and placed a nationwide ban on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa.
“USDA should start over and truly evaluate the contamination of non-GM alfalfa and the potential affects on seed growers, organic and natural meat producers, dairy producers, and conventional and organic honey producers,” said farmer and anti-GE advocate Todd Leake shortly after the ruling.
Monsanto, however, didn’t back down and appealed the Ninth Circuit’s decision to the US Supreme Court. In stepped Elena Kagan, whose role as solicitor general is to look out for the welfare of American citizens in all matters that come before the high court.
Unfortunately, Kagan opted to ditch her duty and instead side with Monsanto. In March 2010, a month before the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case, the solicitor general’s office released a legal brief despite the fact that the US government was not a defendant in the case.
As Kagan’s office argued, “The judgment of the court of appeals should be reversed, and the case should be remanded with instructions to vacate the permanent injunction entered by the district court.”
Despite numerous examples of cross-pollination of GE crops, Monsanto argued during the April 27 court proceedings that this was highly unlikely to occur. CFS and other plaintiffs are concerned that a federal law could be affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling. Courts in Oregon and California have already argued in previous cases that GE seeds must also be studied as to the potential impact on other conventional and organic crops.
Surprisingly, it seems that Kagan does not support a thorough study of GE seeds and their potential impact on environmental and human health. In doing so, Kagan has sided with conservative justices on the court who appeared skeptical that the lower courts had made the right decision in banning GE alfalfa.
During the Supreme Court hearings, Chief Justice John Roberts questioned whether the Ninth Circuit had the authority to issue a ban on GE alfalfa. Roberts contented that the court ought to have instead remanded the issue back to the USDA. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia took his defense of Monsanto even further, stating, “This isn’t the contamination of the New York City water supply,” he said. “This isn’t the end of the world, it really isn’t.”
Apparently Scalia and Roberts aren’t up on the latest scientific analysis that Monsanto’s GE crops have, in fact, bred new voracious super-weeds, which have forced farmers to “spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand, and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing.”
“Bowing to pressure from Monsanto and the other biotech companies, our federal agencies approved [GE] corn and cotton without requiring any mandatory testing for environmental impacts,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for the CFS recently wrote. “And the expected happened: a few years later, independent university researchers – again not the government – discovered that this [GE] pesticide was potentially fatal to Monarch butterflies and other pollinators … Without mandatory government testing, we’re clueless about the universe of keystone pollinators and other species that are being decimated as the [GE] plants continue to proliferate in our fields.”
The Supreme Court’s decision on Monsanto’s alfalfa ban will likely come early this summer. Justice Stephen Breyer recused himself from the case because his brother Charles Breyer oversaw the lower court’s decision against the company. Unsurprisingly, Justice Clarence Thomas, who once worked in the legal department for Monsanto, did not recuse himself from the matter.
While Elena Kagan has no experience on the bench and has provided the public with little to no information about where she stands on some of the most important issues of the day, the fact that she came to bat for Monsanto two months, at a time when the company is reeling from negative press, may shed some light on how she could rule in future GE cases if she’s confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice.
Agriculture Nominee Vilsack Splits the Organic Community January 15, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Environment.
Tags: agribusiness, agriculture, agriculture department, biofuels, biotech, cornucopia institute, environmental news, genetic engineering, global climate change, iowa, jim riddle, manure management, national organic program, Obama, organic agriculture, pest control, roger hollander, senate, stonyfield, transgenic crops, united natureal foods, usda, vilsack, whole foods
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Environmental News Service, http://www.ens-newswire.com/
WASHINGTON, DC, January 14, 2009 (ENS) – Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack had no problem winning over both Democrat and Republican members of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee during his confirmation hearing today, but he has not done as well with the growers and consumers of organic foods.
A trial lawyer and two-term Iowa governor from 1999 to 2007, Vilsack owns a 590-acre Iowa farm, about half of which is planted to crops. He told the committee he supports federal programs that assist organic agriculture, but he has not managed to persuade the consumers of organic foods that he can be trusted to safeguard their interests.
In the past, Vilsack has supported the genetic engineering of crops, which is viewed as a threat by organic farmers who cannot get organic certification for their produce if it is contaminated by pollen drift from transgenic crops. Official policy of the Agriclutre Department is that genetically engineered crops need not be regulated or labeled.
Some in the organic community also see Vilsack as a friend of corporate agribusiness interests, and they have mounted a petition drive to express their opposition to his nomination.
The Organic Consumers Association says it is “disappointed in this controversial appointment” of Vilsack and has gathered over 100,000 emails and petition signatures from organic consumers and farmers objecting to the appointment of the man they call a “biotech and biofuels booster.”
This association has been drumming up support for a request to President-elect Barack Obama to “move beyond agribusiness as usual” by drafting Jim Riddle to head the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, the department that oversees organic food, farming, and standards.
Riddle is an organic farmer from Minnesota, former chair of the National Organic Standards Board, and a longtime advocate for sustainable and organic farming.
“With Riddle heading up the AMS, farmers markets, community supported agriculture, transition to organic programs, and the National Organic Program will finally receive the attention, technical assistance, and funding they deserve,” said the Organic Consumers Association in a statement.
In response, a group of the organic industry’s corporate executives has launched its own petition drive in support of Vilsack.
Officers of some of the largest corporate entities like Whole Foods, Stonyfield and United Natural Foods Inc., have signed on in support. Their petition, with about 500 signatories, includes many Iowa residents familiar with Vilsack when he was governor.
In a letter to the Obama transition team, The Cornucopia Institute, an advocacy group for family farmers, described the USDA’s National Organic Program, NOP, as “dysfunctional” and asked for the Obama administration to make its rehabilitation a priority.
The letter described the NOPs long-standing adversarial relationship with the majority of organic farmers and consumers and the groups that represent them. It said, “Senior management, with oversight of the NOP, has treated industry stakeholders arrogantly and disrespectfully and has overridden NOP career staff when their findings might have been unfavorable to corporations with interests in the organic industry.”
“We were and still are optimistic that when Mr. Obama talked about ‘change’ during his campaign, that he included a shift away from corporate agribusiness domination at the USDA,” said Mark Kastel, a farm policy analyst at The Cornucopia Institute.
Organic farmers and consumers have many environmental concerns, among them genetic crop engineering, pest control, clean and sufficient water supplies, hormones in milk, manure management, the decline of pollinators such as honeybees, labeling of organic products, land use for biofuels, and a warming climate.
In his introductory remarks, committee chairman Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa raised the issue of organic foods, pointing out that “the demand for locally-grown and organic foods continues to grow – the fastest growing part of the food chain – providing new and expanding opportunities in rural communities.”
Vilsack told the committee that if he becomes the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, he will promote renewable energy as a way to boost the rural economy.
The nominee mentioned “global climate change,” a reduction in U.S. forest lands and the health care crisis as issues he intends to tackle.
“All of these serious challenges require a compelling new vision for the department, with the attention, dedication and leadership to make it happen,” Vilsack said. “The president-elect has called on each of us to meet these challenges.”
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, predicted Vilsack’s confirmation would be “swift and speedy.”
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.