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"....an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that.....genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides..... Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen short of the promise. An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields - food per acre - when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that 'there was little evidence' that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops. At the same time, herbicide use has increased in the United States, even as major crops like corn, soybeans and cotton have been converted to modified varieties. And the United States has fallen behind Europe's biggest producer, France, in reducing the overall use of pesticides, which includes both herbicides and insecticides. One measure, contained in data from the United States Geological Survey, shows the stark difference in the use of pesticides. Since genetically modified crops were introduced in the United States two decades ago for crops like corn, cotton and soybeans, the use of toxins that kill insects and fungi has fallen by a third, but the spraying of herbicides, which are used in much higher volumes, has risen by 21 percent. By contrast, in France, use of insecticides and fungicides has fallen by a far greater percentage - 65 percent - and herbicide use has decreased as well, by 36 percent.... Figures from the United States Department of Agriculture show herbicide use skyrocketing in soybeans, a leading G.M. crop, growing by two and a half times in the last two decades, at a time when planted acreage of the crop grew by less than a third. Use in corn was trending downward even before the introduction of G.M. crops, but then nearly doubled from 2002 to 2010, before leveling off. Weed resistance problems in such crops have pushed overall usage up.... a broad yield advantage has not emerged. The Times looked at regional data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, comparing main genetically modified crops in the United States and Canada with varieties grown in Western Europe, a grouping used by the agency that comprises seven nations, including the two largest agricultural producers, France and Germany. For rapeseed, a variant of which is used to produce canola oil, The Times compared Western Europe with Canada, the largest producer, over three decades, including a period well before the introduction of genetically modified crops.... Despite rejecting genetically modified crops, Western Europe maintained a lead over Canada in yields. While that is partly because different varieties are grown in the two regions, the trend lines in the relative yields have not shifted in Canada's favor since the introduction of G.M. crops, the data shows. For corn, The Times compared the United States with Western Europe. Over three decades, the trend lines between the two barely deviate. And sugar beets, a major source of sugar, have shown stronger yield growth recently in Western Europe than the United States, despite the dominance of genetically modified varieties over the last decade. Jack Heinemann, a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, did a pioneering 2013 study comparing trans-Atlantic yield trends, using United Nations data. Western Europe, he said, 'hasn't been penalized in any way for not making genetic engineering one of its biotechnology choices'... Michael Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University, said that while the industry had long said G.M.O.s would 'save the world,' they still 'haven't found the mythical yield gene."
Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops
New York Times, 29 October 2016

"Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative."
'The Adoption of Bioengineered Crops'
US Department of Agriculture Report, May 2002

"Farmers in the USA have increased their use of pesticides since the introduction of genetically modified crops, according to a new study. Washington State University professor Charles Benbrook has studied the use of crops that have been genetically modified for resistance to the glyphosate weedkiller, Roundup, produced by US biotech company Monsanto. Producers of GM crops, such as Monsanto, claim they require less chemicals as plants are engineered to repel crop pests, such as aphids. But the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, found that the use of herbicides in three GM crops - cotton, soya beans and maize, actually increased in the USA over the past two decades. Herbicide-tolerant crops worked extremely well in their early years, the study found. But in recent years, so-called 'superweeds' have become resistant to glyphosate - Roundup's main active ingredient. Superweeds such as horseweed, giant ragweed and pigweed are developing resistance to Roundup (glyphosate) and taking over millions of hectares in the USA. Since about the year 2000, farmers have used increasing amounts of Roundup and 'two or three additional herbicides' to fend off these resistant weeds, said Prof Benbrook. 'Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GM crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25%,' he added. Prof Benbrook estimated the use of GM crops had increased herbicide use by 239 million kg between 1996 and 2011. Overall, in this period pesticide use in the USA had increased by an estimated 183 million kg, equivalent to 7%, the study found. The research would appear to undermine claims from biotech companies, such as Monsanto, that GM crops need less chemicals - one of their major selling points. Farmers in the UK are banned from growing GM crops for commercial use, but two experimental field trials, of GM potatoes and a trial of GM wheat, began in 2012. GM crops do, however, enter Britain mainly as animal feed. Monsanto has so far not made an official comment on the findings of the study."
US farmers using more pesticides with GM crops
Farmers Weekly, 23 October 2012

"For nearly a decade, cotton growers have been battling to save crops from the ravages of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. Though in many ways they are finally gaining the upper hand, an expert with the Weed Science Society of America says progress has come at a great cost. 'The current model simply isn’t sustainable,' says Stanley Culpepper, a professor in crop and soil science at the University of Georgia and member of WSSA. 'Growers have gone to war, and they are making progress from a weed management perspective, but not from an economic or environmental perspective. We need to figure out a way to get the same result far more cost effectively and in a way that better protects our natural resources.' ... Palmer amaranth became a huge problem in cotton after growers began to rely solely on glyphosate for weed control. After repeated and exclusive exposure to the chemical, resistant weeds began to appear. It was clear that growers would need to make significant changes in their weed control practices or lose their crops. Today integrated weed management programs that complement glyphosate with a variety of other weed control tools and techniques have become commonplace in cotton. Growers have added herbicides to their weed control programs that use a different mode of action than glyphosate. They also are using two approaches that may seem decidedly 'old school.'... More than 90 percent of cotton growers in Georgia are now hand-weeding a significant portion of their cotton crop, Culpepper says. They also are tilling more to keep Palmer amaranth at bay. Though the multifaceted approach is working, there are definite downsides. Additional herbicides, labor and fuel have tripled the cost of weed control in cotton and that means profit margins are declining. ... Scientists and growers are collaborating on new options. One of the latest involves the use of heavily planted winter rye as a cover crop for cotton. Once the rye is established, it is rolled down to create a thick, horizontal bed of mulch that can reduce Palmer amaranth infestations by as much as 70 to 90 percent....The impact of glyphosate resistance on cotton crops represents a cautionary tale for anyone relying on a single herbicide mode of action for weed control, scientists say. If you reach the resistance 'tipping point' in a crop, it can be very costly to turn back the tide."
Current weed control programs in cotton ‘not sustainable’
Delta Farm Press, 13 January 2014

"Renowned weed scientist Steve Powles, having had to find solutions and work-arounds in resistant weed-infested crops in his native Australia, has tried to prepare American producers for their own burgeoning resistance problems. In 2005, just as glyphosate-resistant pigweeds began to tighten their grip on fields in the American South, Powles cautioned U.S. producers against continuing practices that would only spread resistance. 'There is something Australia is No. 1 in the world at: herbicide resistance. We know about this problem and have the dubious distinction of being tops. However, the United States is about to take the top spot away from us. My prediction is you will be crowned king of herbicide resistance within the next few years.' In summer 2013, Powles again visited the United States and his message took on a more urgent tone. Agronomic diversity is a must, he told Farm Press, if American producers are to head off massive cropland problems.... '....Two years ago, pigweed had become a real problem in the South. That has only spread farther afield. When I was visiting the Texas High Plains, they told me resistant pigweed wasn’t a problem in 2012. This year, though, it’s in as much as 50 percent of the fields. That’s just the exponential part of the curve, which states like Arkansas, Mississippi and Georgia have been through. Whereas, in the Midwest, the Corn Belt, the producers have had a different set of issues. I don’t want to overstate the situation, but on a bus ride from Chicago to Indianapolis — with many stops — you can really see a sprinkling of marestail and waterhemp through some 50 percent of the soybean crops. I’m prepared to claim that those weeds are glyphosate-resistant. Those aren’t just misses. I don’t remember seeing that several years ago.'"
Advice from weed resistance expert: Try diversity
Delta Farm Press, 17 January 2014

"Faltering under extreme weather and vanishing habitats, the yearly winter migration of monarch butterflies to a handful of forested Mexican mountains dwindled precipitously in December, continuing what scientists said was an increasingly alarming decline. The migrating population has become so small — perhaps 35 million, experts guess — that the prospects of its rebounding to levels seen even five years ago are diminishing. At worst, scientists said, a migration widely called one of the world’s great natural spectacles is in danger of effectively vanishing. ...As corn prices have risen — spurred in part by a government mandate to add ethanol to gasoline — farmers have planted tens of millions of acres of idle land along the monarchs’ path that once provided both milkweed and nectar. At the same time, growers have switched en masse to crops that are genetically engineered to tolerate herbicides. The increased use of herbicides has all but wiped out milkweed that once sprouted between rows of corn and soybean. As a result, Dr. Taylor said, the monarchs must travel farther and use more energy to find places to lay their eggs. With their body fat depleted, the butterflies lay fewer eggs, or die before they have a chance to reproduce. The monarchs are but the most visible victims of the habitat loss, Dr. Oberhauser said. A wide variety of pollinators and other insects, including many that are beneficial to farmers, are also disappearing, she said, along with the predators that feed on them..... "
Migration of Monarch Butterflies Shrinks Again Under Inhospitable Conditions
New York Times, 29 January 2014

"Sometimes an old technology may be the best fit for your field. In recent years, that fact has been reinforced on much of Gary Sitzer’s soybean acreage. Sitzer, it turns out, hasn’t given up on conventional varieties. 'I farm in northeast Arkansas, on the western side of Poinsett County,' said Sitzer at the mid-January Cotton and Rice Conference in Tunica, Miss. 'It’s an old rice area.' At the beginning of his presentation Sitzer insisted he was for producer choice not against GMOs. 'I want everyone to know I’m strictly talking about non-GMO, or conventional, soybeans being a choice. I’m not here to denigrate Roundup Ready or LibertyLink or anyone’s GMO. It’s simply a choice -- and a lot of times I think it’s the best choice for a particular situation.'.... Many are familiar with the Arkansas verification program. 'That’s where the researchers’ data and recommendations are put it to work in an actual farmer’s field.' In 2012, there were four conventional soybean fields in the program along with 15 Roundup Ready or LibertyLink fields. That year, averaging everything together, 'the conventional varieties actually did better. So, there is top-end potential. In 2013, there was a big yield contest in Arkansas -- ‘Go for the Green.’ A conventional field was turned in for the contest, yield was certified from at least a five-acre block, and it yielded 84 bushels per acre.' Further evidence came from a Phillips County verification field where the farmer 'elected to use two varieties. One was UA4910, a conventional, as well as an Asgrow line. They both yielded the same. 'Does that tell you anything, really? Well, the Asgrow line is the same one that made 107 bushels in the ‘Race for 100’ contest in the state.'.... drills have changed a lot since Sitzer was back in high school. 'But it’s still about making a trench and covering up the seed. One of the things that got me interested in conventional beans was this: on marginal fields with a rough seed bed am I better off planting at a high seeding rate?' The best way to afford that is to use a university variety and keep your own seed, Sitzer suggested. 'That way, your cost is basically market price and $2 or $3 for cleaning, storage, bagging, insurance, whatever. So, in adverse conditions, I can plant up to a bushel-and-a-half, at times. That’s a big advantage: keep your own seed.'..... What are some of the advantages of conventional soybeans? 'I play with the numbers in many ways. Basically, the seed costs savings average about $50 to $55 per acre versus a normal seeding rate of a Roundup Ready with a seed treatment.' There are premiums available for conventionals. 'I have gotten them. Some years I do, some I don’t. I don’t plan for them. The beans go right into the market chain. Premiums vary. If you’re close to the river and you don’t mind storing them until after harvest, ADM has a premium market nearly every year. But you must store them. And I’m far enough away that the time value and transportation kind of eats into the bonus.' Saving seed 'is a big deal and provides flexibility, particularly with seeding rates. You can keep more seed than you think you’ll need. So, if I get into a replant situation, there can be enough seed to assure a good replanting of the same variety.'"
Considering conventional soybeans? Here’s some advice
Delta Farm Press, 11 February 2014

"... according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.... released online on Feb. 20.... GMO crops were planted on about 169 million acres (68 million hectares) in the U.S. in 2013, about half the total land used for crops, the report said. The seeds are patented and cost more than conventional seeds - the price of GMO soybean and corn seeds grew by about 50 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to the report. But the companies that sell them say they make weed and insect management easier for farmers and can help increase production. But in its report, the ERS researchers said over the first 15 years of commercial use, GMO seeds have not been shown to definitively increase yield potentials, and 'in fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties,' the ERS report states. Several researchers have found 'no significant differences' between the net returns to farmers who use GMO herbicide tolerant seeds and those who use non-GMO seeds, the report states..... insecticide use on corn farms was down to 0.02 pound per acre in 2010, down from 0.21 pound per acre in 1995, the report states. But while insecticide use has gone down, herbicide use on GMO corn is rising, the report states. Herbicide use on GMO corn increased from around 1.5 pounds per planted acre in 2001 to more than 2.0 pounds per planted acre in 2010. Herbicide use on non-GMO corn has remained relatively level during that same time frame, the ERS said. And the over reliance on glyphosate has translated to an increase in weed resistance, which makes crop production much harder. Glyphosate is the chief ingredient in Roundup herbicide sold by Monsanto, and its use has translated to the glyphosate resistance seen in 14 weed species and biotypes in the United States, according to ERS."
U.S. GMO crops show mix of benefits, concerns - USDA report
Reuters, 24 February 2014

"One of agricultural biotechnology’s great success stories may become a cautionary tale of how short-sighted mismanagement can squander the benefits of genetic modification. After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn. Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop. The vulnerability of this corn could be disastrous for farmers and the environment. 'Unless management practices change, it’s only going to get worse,' said Aaron Gassmann, an Iowa State University entomologist and co-author of a March 17 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study describing rootworm resistance. 'There needs to be a fundamental change in how the technology is used.'.... as rootworms become more resistant, said Gassmann, farmers will turn to insecticides, thus increasing their costs and losing the ecological benefits originally gained by using Bt corn. As entomologists concerned by rootworm resistance wrote to the EPA in 2012, 'When insecticides overlay transgenic technology, the economic and environmental advantages of rootworm-­protected corn quickly disappear.' '"
Voracious Worm Evolves to Eat Biotech Corn Engineered to Kill It
Wired, 17 March 2014

"The nation-wide data on maize, cotton, or soybean in the United States do not show a significant signature of genetic-engineering technology on the rate of yield increase... The use of HR [Herbicide Resistant] crops sometimes initially correlated with decreases in total amount of herbicide applied per hectare of crop per year, but the decreases have not generally been sustained..... Weed resistance to glyphosate is a problem.... Although multiple strategies can be used to delay weed resistance, there is insufficient empirical evidence to determine which strategy is expected to be most effective in a given cropping system.... Both GE crops and the percentage of cropping area farmed with no-till and reduced-till practices have increased over the last two decades. However, cause and effect are difficult to determine...."
Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, United States, May 2016



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2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 & Earlier
 
2017

"In 2016, farmers worldwide planted more than 240 million acres (98 million hectares) of genetically modified corn, cotton and soybeans that produce insect-killing proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. These Bt proteins kill some voracious caterpillar and beetle pests but are harmless to people and considered environmentally friendly. While organic farmers have used Bt proteins in sprays successfully for more than half a century, some scientists feared that widespread use of Bt proteins in genetically engineered crops would spur rapid evolution of resistance in pests.Researchers at the University of Arizona have taken stock to address this concern and to discover why pests adapted quickly in some cases but not others. To test predictions about resistance, Bruce Tabashnik and Yves Carrière in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences analyzed the global data on Bt crop use and pest responses. Their research paper, "Surge in Insect Resistance to Transgenic Crops and Prospects for Sustainability," is published in the October issue of Nature Biotechnology.  The researchers analyzed published data for 36 cases representing responses of 15 pest species in 10 countries on every continent except Antarctica. They discovered resistance that substantially reduced the efficacy of the Bt crops in the field in 16 cases as of 2016, compared with only three such cases by 2005. In these 16 cases, pests evolved resistance in an average time of just over five years....The new study revealed that pest resistance to Bt crops is evolving faster now than before, primarily because resistance to some Bt proteins causes cross-resistance to related Bt proteins produced by subsequently introduced crops. An encouraging development is the recent commercialization of biotech crops producing a novel type of Bt protein called a vegetative insecticidal protein, or Vip. All other Bt proteins in genetically engineered crops are in another group, called crystalline, or Cry, proteins. Because these two groups of Bt proteins are so different, cross-resistance between them is low or nil, according to the authors of the study. "When Bt crops were first introduced in 1996, no one knew how quickly the pests would adapt," said Tabashnik, a Regents' Professor and head of the UA Department of Entomology. "Now we have a cumulative total of over 2 billion acres of these crops planted during the past two decades and extensive monitoring data, so we can build a scientific understanding of how fast the pests evolve resistance and why."
Research Shows Pest Resistance to Biotech Crops Is Surging
University of Arizona News, 11 October 2017

"Monarch butterfly populations have taken a nosedive over the last 20 years, according to researchers who monitor the number of butterflies that spend the winter in Mexico every year. But organizations of citizen scientists in the United States who conduct yearly censuses of monarchs in state parks and other locations in the summer have reported no consistent dip in the number of butterflies they see.... John Pleasants, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, said long-term monitoring of butterflies and eggs on milkweed stems during the summer breeding season across the United States didn’t note the same decline as that documented in central Mexico, where all monarch butterflies migrate for the winter.  “These census findings, which didn’t see the same drop in population, cast doubt on the milkweed narrative,” Pleasants said. “It made people think maybe the problem isn’t with milkweed becoming harder to find.  Instead, maybe there’s something going wrong as the monarchs migrate to Mexico.”  Pleasants set out to pinpoint the reason for the discrepancy and found that it results from the fact that monarch activity has shifted out of agricultural fields, where milkweeds were once common. For example, roughly half of farm fields in Iowa used to have patches of milkweed, but the widespread use of the herbicide glyphosate has kept fields free of milkweed in recent years. That leaves monarchs with no choice but to concentrate in other areas with milkweed, Pleasants said. It is these other areas where summer censuses are conducted."
Saving the monarch butterfly: Iowa State University biologist explains census discrepancy
Iowa State University News Service, 2 August 2017

"Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn producing the Cry1F protein was the first highly efficacious Bt corn deployed against the fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in Brazil, but reduced efficacy of this technology against the fall armyworm has been reported in some regions of the country. Here, we surveyed Cry1F resistance allele frequency and susceptibility of eight S. frugiperda populations collected in 2013 from non-Bt fields in different regions of Brazil. In F1 screen experiments, the overall frequency of the Cry1F resistance alleles in Brazilian populations was estimated at 0.24, with 95% credibility interval between 0.18 and 0.25. In concentration–response bioassays, five of the eight populations surveyed exhibited significant resistance levels, which were over 32 times higher than that of the standard susceptible laboratory strain. The estimates of Cry1F resistance allele frequency were positively correlated with those of median effective or lethal concentrations (i.e., EC50 or LC50). These results show that the allelic frequency and the magnitude of Cry1F resistance are high in field populations of S. frugiperda in Brazil, indicating a challenging situation for resistance management."
Magnitude and allele frequency of Cry1F resistance in field populations of the fall armyworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in Brazil
Journal of Economic Entomology, 110(4), 2017, 1770–1778. doi: 10.1093/jee/tox146

"Genetically modified or Bt cotton is no longer resistant to pink bollworm - a major pest in Mahahrashtra, prompting the state government to write to the Union government to seek its intervention.  A research report by Dr K R Kranthi, former director of Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), shows that pink bollworm has developed resistance to Bollgard-II Bt cotton not only in Maharashtra but other cotton-growing states as well. Bollgard-II is the Bt hybrid variety that was introduced in 2010.  "There are only two benefits of Bt cotton. One, it controls bollworm, due to which the yield is protected. Two, it reduces use of insecticides meant for bollworm control. Currently, cotton growers do not get either benefit," Dr Kranthi told TOI via email.  Bijay Kumar, principal secretary, agriculture department, said, "There are nearly 85 private Bt cotton seed-producing companies in the state and we have been getting several complaints of crop failure from farmers. In most cases, we cannot do much to help affected farmers. We want the Central government to come up with a clear set of guildelines for us in this situation."  The issue assumes significance given that Maharashtra is the largest cotton-growing state in the country. Nearly 40 lakh hectares or 35% of the cultivatable area is under cotton production. Nearly 96% cotton-growing farmers in the state use BG-II Bt cotton seeds for cultivation.  Last year, nearly 90% of cotton farms in Jalna were affected and farmers had approached the state government seeking compensation for the losses they had incurred."
Bt cotton falling to pest, Maharashtra tensed
Times of India, 5 July 2017

"In a letter to union agriculture minister, Radha Mohan Singh, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) urged him to provide relief to farmers suffering from low cotton crop yields, by reducing trait value of BT cotton seeds to Rs 25. According to SJM, efficacy of the BT trait has come down vastly in the last two years, so its trait value should also be reduced."
SJM urges ministry to reduce trait value of BT cotton seeds
Fibre2Fashion, 21 March 2017

"As the instances of weed resistance grow in number, farmers will face higher costs for controlling those weeds and perhaps even losses on crop yields. That was the message from Darrel Daniels, a Syngenta regional agronomist based at Hartford, to attendees at the 2017 annual meeting of the Calumet County Forage Council. He noted that individual weed plants can produce hundreds of thousands or even a million seeds. Daniels described how resistance to certain herbicides by weeds that are prevalent in Wisconsin has generally come from the south and cited some of the measures that farmers have resorted to in order to cope with certain weeds, particularly Palmer amaranth. Those measures include burning both the seed-laden weed plants and the soybean residue from fields infested with resistant weeds. About one-third of Wisconsin's 72 counties having at least one case of confirmed or suspected resistance by water hemp to glyphosate while three counties have some Palmer amaranth that's resistant to glyphosate, Daniels pointed out. Those confirmations have been made in laboratory tests at the University of Wisconsin in Madison or through a $50 tissue assay performed by the University of Illinois. Through 2005, no Palmer amaranth resistant was detected in Arkansas but by 2010 it had spread to one half of the state's counties, Daniels reported. In Illinois, a great majority of the counties have confirmed cases of Palmer amaranth resistance, he added. Another problem in Illinois is that some water hemp has resistance to both glyphosate and PPO active ingredients, he observed. Controlling the two weeds in soybeans is assured only with the small portion of soybeans with the Liberty Link trait for herbicide tolerance, Daniels indicated. The introduction of RR Xtend soybeans, which tolerate dicamba herbicide, is not an answer because it is not very effective with water hemp or Palmer amaranth, he stated. With water hemp being a major concern in Wisconsin, one way to control the spread of weed seeds is by a thorough cleaning of combines, Daniels advised. He acknowledged that this is a tough task, given that a combine is likely to contain 125 to 150 pounds of grain and bio-matter when shut down. For the most part, however, the recommended and higher cost practice is to apply both pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides to corn and soybeans and to have at least two different modes of action in a given year, Daniels stated. Because much of the water hemp doesn't germinate until early July, it is also important to use a Group 15 chemistry post-emergent herbicide with a residual, he explained."
Herbicide resistance an increasing phenomenon
Wisconsin State Farmer, 19 Feb 2017

"Homozygous Golden Rice lines developed in the background of Swarna through marker assisted backcross breeding (MABB) using transgenic GR2-R1 event as a donor for the provitamin A trait have high levels of provitamin A (up to 20 ppm) but are dwarf with pale green leaves and drastically reduced panicle size, grain number and yield as compared to the recurrent parent, Swarna....We propose that the disruption of OsAux1 disturbed the fine balance of plant growth regulators viz., auxins, gibberellic acid and abscisic acid, leading to the abnormalities in the growth and development of the lines homozygous for the transgene. The study demonstrates the conserved roles of OsAux1 gene in rice and Arabidopsis."
Molecular and Functional Characterization of GR2-R1 Event Based Backcross Derived Lines of Golden Rice in the Genetic Background of a Mega Rice Variety Swarna
PLoS ONE 12(1): e0169600. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0169600

"A new publication has reported unintended effects in genetically engineered rice producing precursors of vitamin A, so-called carotenoids. Crossing the manipulated rice with the Indian variety Swarna led to a nasty surprise: The resulting plants showed extensive disturbance in their growth. The researchers identified several reasons for this: The new gene constructs interfere with the plant’s own gene for producing growth hormones, and the additional gene constructs were not, as intended, active solely in the kernels, but also in the leaves. This led to a substantial reduction in the content of chlorophyll that is essential for vital functions in the plants. These unintended effects were not detected in previous investigations, and it was assumed that the genetically engineered plants used in these trials would show genetic stability. In fact, these detrimental genomic effects remained undetected until the transgenic plants were crossed with the variety called Swarna, which is grown widely in India.... It is not the first time that such problems have been reported: Some other 'Golden Rice' lines are already known to show irregular patterns of inheritance. Furthermore, there are uncertainties regarding the biological quality and safety of the plants. For example, additional changes in the metabolism of the rice kernels were described in 2016. So far, there are no varieties available for commercial cultivation. According to the International Rice Research Institute IRRI, the safety and usefulness of the plants for nutrition needs further investigation."
Golden Rice': Unexpected genomic effect
Test-Biotech, 15 February 2017

2016

"Transgenic corn engineered with genes expressing insecticidal toxins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Berliner) (Bt) are now a major tool in insect pest management. With its widespread use, insect resistance is a major threat to the sustainability of the Bt transgenic technology. For all Bt corn expressing Cry toxins, the high dose requirement for resistance management is not achieved for corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie), which is more tolerant to the Bt toxins....After ruling out possible contributing factors, the rapid change in field efficacy in recent years and decreased susceptibility of H. zea to Bt sweet corn provide strong evidence of field-evolved resistance in H. zea populations to multiple Cry toxins. The high adoption rate of Bt field corn and cotton, along with the moderate dose expression of Cry1Ab and related Cry toxins in these crops, and decreasing refuge compliance probably contributed to the evolution of resistance. Our results have important implications for resistance monitoring, refuge requirements and other regulatory policies, cross-resistance issues, and the sustainability of the pyramided Bt technology."
Field-Evolved Resistance in Corn Earworm to Cry Proteins Expressed by Transgenic Sweet Corn
PLOS One, 30 December 2016

"Researchers have found that a large share of scientific studies on genetically modified (GM) crops were tainted by conflicts of interest, mostly because of having an employee of a GM producing company as one of the authors or having received funding from the company. Out of the 579 published studies on GM crops that were analysed, about 40 per cent showed such conflict of interest, the researchers affiliated to France's National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) found. Their study is published in the journal PLOS ONE this week. "We found that ties between researchers and the GM crop industry were common, with 40 per cent of the articles considered displaying conflicts of interest," said the study. They also discovered that studies with conflict of interest had much more likelihood of presenting a favourable outcome for GM crops compared to those with no conflict of interest. "In particular, we found that, compared to the absence of COI (conflict of interest), the presence of a COI was associated with a 50 per cent higher frequency of outcomes favorable to the interests of the GM crop company," the study said. Common crops like corn, soybean etc. can be made resistant to certain pests by introducing genes from a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis, hence the name 'Bt'. Considerable research has been devoted to charting efficacy and durability of Bt crops. Thomas Guillemaud, director of research at France's National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), told AFP that the team originally looked at 672 studies before narrowing down to the pool to 579 that showed clearly whether there was or was not a financial conflict of interest. "Of this total, 404 were American studies and 83 were Chinese," he said. "The most important point was how we also showed there is a statistical link between the presence of conflicts of interest and a study that comes to a favorable conclusion for GMO crops," Guillemaud said. "When studies had a conflict of interest, this raised the likelihood 49 per cent that their conclusions would be favorable to GMO crops." Among the 350 articles without conflicts of interest, 36 per cent were favorable to GM crop companies. Among the 229 studies with a conflict of interest, 54 per cent were favorable to GM companies. "We thought we would find conflicts of interest, but we did not think we would find so many," Guillemaud told AFP. One limitation of the study was that it investigated only direct financial conflict of interest. As the authors point out in the study paper itself, "authors may have affiliations to GM crop companies of other types, such as being members of advisory boards, consultants, or co-holders of patents, and this could also have a significant impact on the outcomes of studies on GM crops." They said that such non-financial interests are very difficult to trace."
Many studies on genetic modification biased because of authors' links to companies
Times of India, 17 December 2016

"...the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) in its 75th plenary meeting in Islamabad has demanded that the country should revert to traditional varieties of cotton and conventional methods of insect control to improve crop productivity. 'Bt cotton is a total failure in Pakistan as it has created new bugs and insects which were never seen in the past. First the government itself imposed a ban on the introduction of Bt cotton in Pakistan in 2005, but later allowed it after different interests, including seed companies in connivance with agriculture ministries and departments, launched a propaganda that Bt cotton will control all worms except the Army worm and sucking pests', said Ali Muhammad of Lodhran district, who has been growing cotton since 1980s. He says the use of Bt cotton is destroying cotton cultivation as many farmers have switched over to other crops like Maze and pulses on the recommendations of the agriculture department officials. According to him, the cotton growers have grown cotton only on one fourth of the total area in Lodhran district in current season. Muhammad is of the view that local varieties like F 12, MNH 93, VH 48 were the best seed varieties of old times in terms of cotton yield."
The merits of tradition
Dawn, 21 November 2016

"The UK should tread carefully on introducing commercial GM crops, at the risk of alienating important markets, growers were told this week. Speaking at co-operative United Oilseeds’ annual harvest review and outlook as Farmers Weekly went to press on Wednesday (16 November), NFU vice-president Guy Smith said the Brexit vote brought the GM issue back into the spotlight. “It should be science rather than popular appeal directing what we can and can’t grow – as someone who thinks GM is the way forward, I can’t control blackgrass on my farm,” said Mr Smith. “However I am very conscious that everything I grow on my farm has to have a market – I have to grow what consumers want to eat, I have to be very mindful of markets. “If the UK takes a pro-GM attitude, where are our exports going to go? If we start to develop a different policy to the rest of the EU, those issues will raise their heads and we need to be very, very careful.”"
UK’s National Farmers Union sounds warning over GM crops
Farmers Weekly, 17 November 2016

"Genetically modified crops could help us grow more food on less land in a world struggling to cope with climate change, say biologists. Rubbish, respond those opposed to GM technology — all they do is boost the profits of multinationals. Right now, there is some truth to this criticism. None of the GM crops widely grown around the world are designed to boost yields directly — but that could be about to change. A team of researchers announced today that they have genetically modified wheat to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis. When the plants are grown in glasshouses, the change boosts yields by 15 to 20 per cent. Now they are applying to the UK government for permission to carry out field trials. The field tests are essential to confirm the alteration works, says team member Malcolm Hawkesford of Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, UK, where the trials will begin in spring 2017 if they get the go-ahead. So Hawkesford and colleagues, including Christine Raines of the University of Essex and Elizabete Carmo-Silva of Lancaster University, have added extra copies of an enzyme called SBPase, to increase the supply of the five-carbon molecule. For the field tests, they have created strains of a spring wheat called Cadenza with anywhere from one to six extra copies of the gene for SBPase. Cadenza is an old wheat variety that is no longer grown commercially. If the trial succeeds, newer strains of wheat would need to be modified to create commercial products – but that’s a long way off, Hawkesford stresses."
Trials planned for GM superwheat that boosts harvest by 20%
New Scientist, 4 November 2016

"Glyphosate and glyphosate-resistant crops had a revolutionary impact on weed management practices, but the epidemic of glyphosate-resistant (GR) weeds is rapidly decreasing the value of these technologies. In areas that fully adopted glyphosate and GR crops, GR weeds evolved and glyphosate and glyphosate traits now must be combined with other technologies. The chemical company solution is to combine glyphosate with other chemicals, and the seed company solution is to combine glyphosate resistance with other traits. Unfortunately, companies have not discovered a new commercial herbicide mode-of-action for over 30 years and have already developed or are developing traits for all existing herbicide types with high utility. Glyphosate mixtures and glyphosate trait combinations will be the mainstays of weed management for many growers, but are not going to be enough to keep up with the capacity of weeds to evolve resistance. Glufosinate, auxin, HPPD-inhibiting and other herbicide traits, even when combined with glyphosate resistance, are incremental and temporary solutions. Herbicide and seed businesses are not going to be able to support what critics call the chemical and transgenic treadmills for much longer. The long time without the discovery of a new herbicide mode-of-action and the epidemic of resistant weeds is forcing many growers to spend much more to manage weeds and creating a worst of times, best of times predicament for the crop protection and seed industry."
The Rise and Future of Glyphosate and Glyphosate-Resistant Crops
Pest Management Scienc. 2016 Oct 18. doi: 10.1002/ps.4462.

"....an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that.....genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides..... Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen short of the promise. An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields - food per acre - when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that 'there was little evidence' that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops. At the same time, herbicide use has increased in the United States, even as major crops like corn, soybeans and cotton have been converted to modified varieties. And the United States has fallen behind Europe's biggest producer, France, in reducing the overall use of pesticides, which includes both herbicides and insecticides. One measure, contained in data from the United States Geological Survey, shows the stark difference in the use of pesticides. Since genetically modified crops were introduced in the United States two decades ago for crops like corn, cotton and soybeans, the use of toxins that kill insects and fungi has fallen by a third, but the spraying of herbicides, which are used in much higher volumes, has risen by 21 percent. By contrast, in France, use of insecticides and fungicides has fallen by a far greater percentage - 65 percent - and herbicide use has decreased as well, by 36 percent.... Figures from the United States Department of Agriculture show herbicide use skyrocketing in soybeans, a leading G.M. crop, growing by two and a half times in the last two decades, at a time when planted acreage of the crop grew by less than a third. Use in corn was trending downward even before the introduction of G.M. crops, but then nearly doubled from 2002 to 2010, before leveling off. Weed resistance problems in such crops have pushed overall usage up.... a broad yield advantage has not emerged. The Times looked at regional data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, comparing main genetically modified crops in the United States and Canada with varieties grown in Western Europe, a grouping used by the agency that comprises seven nations, including the two largest agricultural producers, France and Germany. For rapeseed, a variant of which is used to produce canola oil, The Times compared Western Europe with Canada, the largest producer, over three decades, including a period well before the introduction of genetically modified crops.... Despite rejecting genetically modified crops, Western Europe maintained a lead over Canada in yields. While that is partly because different varieties are grown in the two regions, the trend lines in the relative yields have not shifted in Canada's favor since the introduction of G.M. crops, the data shows. For corn, The Times compared the United States with Western Europe. Over three decades, the trend lines between the two barely deviate. And sugar beets, a major source of sugar, have shown stronger yield growth recently in Western Europe than the United States, despite the dominance of genetically modified varieties over the last decade. Jack Heinemann, a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, did a pioneering 2013 study comparing trans-Atlantic yield trends, using United Nations data. Western Europe, he said, 'hasn't been penalized in any way for not making genetic engineering one of its biotechnology choices'... Michael Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University, said that while the industry had long said G.M.O.s would 'save the world,' they still 'haven't found the mythical yield gene."
Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops
New York Times, 29 October 2016

"The rise of glyphosate-resistant weeds has resulted in increased herbicide use, with farmers growing GM soya using more than those who didn’t adopt the technology. That’s according to research carried out by a group of US scientists, published recently in Science Advances. They also found that insect-resistant maize cut insecticide use.... those growing GM herbicide-resistant crops actually used 28% more herbicide than non-adopters rather than benefitting from a reduction. Prof Ciliberto attributes this increase to the proliferation of glyphosate-resistant weeds. “In the beginning, there was a reduction in herbicide use, but over time, the use of chemicals increased because farmers were having to add new chemicals as weeds developed a resistance to glyphosate,” Prof Ciliberto said."
GM soya growers use nearly 30% more herbicide, research reveals
Farmers Weekly, 23 September 2016

"For all the international furor over genetically modified food, or GMOs, the biotech industry has really only managed to put a few foreign genes into food crops. The first of these genes — actually, a small family of similar genes — came from a kind of bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Those genes make plants poisonous to certain insect pests. These genes are a pillar of the entire industry. But that pillar is wobbling. Three of the four Bt genes that are supposed to fend off one particularly important pest, the corn rootworm, are showing signs of failure. Corn rootworms have evolved resistance to them. But the biotech companies say not to worry. More genes are on the way. This week, a team of scientists from DuPont Pioneer announced in the journal Science that they'd discovered a new rootworm-killing gene. They found it by searching through the countless bacteria that live in the soil, looking for one that is lethal to the corn rootworm. Many have carried out such searches and failed. The DuPont Pioneer team, however, succeeded.... when rootworm-fighting Bt genes were still new, a group of scientists warned the Environmental Protection Agency not to let farmers plant corn containing this gene on all their fields. They predicted that if farmers did so, corn rootworms would evolve resistance to Bt more quickly. "The majority of the people on that EPA Science Advisory Panel recommended a 50 percent refuge," Gould says. "That means, 50 percent of the corn [seed] that goes out could have the Bt gene, and 50 percent would not." Seed companies, though, persuaded the government to let farmers plant up to 95 percent of their acres with Bt corn. It encouraged farmers to rely on genetic engineering instead of old-fashioned methods of controlling pests, such as crop rotations — planting their fields with a variety of crops, and not just corn. It only took about a dozen years for Bt-resistant rootworms to appear. Gould says that if this new gene eventually does go on sale, he's hoping that regulators manage its use so that it stays effective for longer than the Bt genes have."
As a GMO Pillar Wobbles, Biotech Companies Promise New Insect-Killing Genes
NPR, 22 September 2016

"2016 has been a challenging year for our Bt crops. Cotton bollworms did an unusually high amount of damage in many fields of Bt cotton, and corn earworms (which are bollworms by another name) caused a significant amount of damage to corn crops from Texas through Kansas. Western bean cutworm caused severe damage in fields of Cry1F corn in the Midwest and Canada where once the toxin provided a reasonable level of control. Fall armyworm is known to be resistant to Cry1F corn in parts of the country. Corn rootworm is resistant to toxins that once did a good job of control. One question this fall is whether we have resistance to our Bt toxins targeted at caterpillars and, if so, how far it has spread. Field observations suggest that we do have resistance, but we will have to wait for the results of the laboratory tests on the progeny of the insects collected from the field. This article is not about whether we have resistance, it is about why we will have more resistance. When Bt crops were originally registered and deployed some 20 years ago, the seed companies each had their own unique toxins that worked more or less well on specific pests. Effectively the percentage of the pest insect population exposed to any particular toxin depended to a great extent on the market share held by each company. Over time, however, seed companies began licensing their toxins to their competitors. In addition to financial gain there was a good reason for this; two or three different toxins were far better than one for delaying resistance. If an insect had an allele to survive on toxin 1, it probably did not have different alleles to survive on toxins 2 and 3. The insect would be killed and its allele to survive toxin 1 would die with it and not be passed to the next generation. This strategy of multiple toxins targeted at the same pest (a pyramid of toxins) was successfully employed when corn rootworm in the Midwest became resistant to Cry3Bb1; the answer was to make plants that expressed both Cry3Bb1 (from company A) and Cry34/35 (from company B). Rootworms resistant to Cry3Bb1 were still exposed to Cry34/35 and many of them died. However, because they were already resistant to one toxin they were really only being challenged by the remaining effective toxin, so they were back to having to overcome one toxin and not two. Astute readers will note that we have four toxins for corn rootworm, so why not add one or both of the other two? The answer is cross resistance; rootworms that are resistant to Cry3Bb1 are also resistant to mCry3a, even if their ancestors never encountered mCry3a. Researchers in Iowa have recently confirmed resistance to the fourth toxin, eCry3.1Ab. A good article on this problem is here, and it says, "Cry3Bb1, mCry3A and eCry3.1Ab all appear fairly similar to the rootworm, and resistance to one is likely to confer resistance to the other two....The newest silver bullet is Vip3a for caterpillars. It is fairly high dose and does a good job of controlling many species. In their latest generation of Bt corn and cotton, all of the seed companies are now adding Vip3a as a pyramid with older toxins. Once again the insects will have adapted, or partially adapted, to the older toxins, so selection for resistance will be on Vip3a. There does not seem to be a way out of the box with corn rootworm toxins, and increasingly we are relying on Vip3a to protect yield while the other caterpillar toxins are failing. Cry toxins had a good run and will hang on for a while longer, but the era of the Cry toxin seems to be ending."
Shuffling the Deck Chairs in Bt Crops
Focus On Entomology, 10 September 2016

"In their weekly column Schaffer and Ray (2016) reported about a meeting with an employee of the US State Department and discussing the benefits of GM crops for farmers and consumers in the Global South and whether or not farmers would have to pay a technology fee and purchase, for example, the golden rice seed each year. The State Department representative stated that the companies that own the patents would be willing to make the golden rice (or virus-resistant cassava) available at no cost provided that the countries adopted US patent regimes to protect other GM crops. From a policy perspective, such a ‘humanitarian’ license agreement would thereby present a highly profitable transaction, a means to ‘encourage’ developing countries that often do not even have patent laws of their own to accept the US patent regime and so ensure the profits of US companies and patent holders in perpetuity. In corporate agriculture it seems, nothing is really for free."
Millions Spent, No One Served: Who Is to Blame for the Failure of GMO Golden Rice?
Independent Science News, 10 August 2016

"Pyramided Bt corn hybrids, which feature two traits targeting the western corn rootworm, have long been a stronghold against rootworm damage for Corn Belt farmers. That defense is weakening this year after university entomologists have confirmed resistance in rootworm populations to eCry3.1Ab (found in hybrids containing Duracade) in Iowa and Minnesota cornfields and lower levels of resistance to Cry34/35Ab1 (the Herculex RW trait), found in SmartStax, AcreMax XTreme and Agrisure 3122 hybrids."Cry 34/35Ab1 still seems to be effective in much of Iowa," Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann told DTN. "But because we are starting to see some adaptation, it is an early warning to farmers that they need to use the trait judiciously and with good stewardship." ..... The news comes as resistance to the other rootworm Bt traits on the market -- Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A -- continue to plague farmers in areas where continuous corn is common, particularly Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota. Cry3Bb1 (YieldGard RW), found in VT Triple, VT Triple Pro and SmartStax hybrids, has shown documented failures since 2009, when Gassmann first tested populations for resistance to it in Iowa. Reports of rootworm resistance to mCry3A followed shortly, and scientists have found extensive evidence of cross resistance between the two traits -- meaning a rootworm population that is resistance to Cry3Bb1 will also be resistant to mCry3A, even if it has never encountered that trait before (mCry3A is found in many Agrisure hybrids, including Duracade). In light of these problems, companies began stacking these compromised traits with an additional rootworm trait and selling these "pyramid" hybrids to help control resistant populations. They used either eCry3.1Ab (Duracade) or Cry34/35Ab1 (SmartStax, AcreMax XTreme and Agrisure 3122) to build these pyramided products, and began to phase out single-trait products. However, in places where Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A were already compromised, these pyramids put the selection pressure on the Duracade or SmartStax trait. Many pyramided products have smaller refuges because of their dual-trait status, which added to the risk of resistance. Entomologists warned that the pyramids may not last very long under these conditions, and this year, those predictions proved true. In April, a team of scientists published their findings of rootworm populations in Minnesota that could survive on eCry3.1Ab, the Duracade trait, in addition to Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A. Just two months later, Iowa State University scientists confirmed resistance to the Duracade trait in their state, as well."
When Pyramids Fall
DTN Progressive Farmer, 10 August 2016

"Experts began raising doubts last year about the resilience of Monsanto's lab-altered Bt seeds, which still account for more than 90 percent of the cotton seeds sold in India. Monsanto's Bollgard II technology, introduced in 2006, was slowly becoming vulnerable to bollworms, they said, as any technology has a limited shelf life."
Indian farmers cotton on to new seed, in blow to Monsanto
Reuters, 3 August 2016

"Monsanto's GM maize is no longer profitable or attractive for a good proportion of Spanish farmers, says a report for the Spanish news outlet Economia Digital. Engineered to resist the corn borer pest, the crop has suffered a series of setbacks in Spanish fields. Producers have abandoned the crop because its profitability is much lower than non-GM maize. The GM seed is more expensive than non-GM and the market penalizes GM crops with a lower price – usually 25% lower. “It’s a clear trend. The producers of the area, one of the largest with more than 700 hectares, have stopped growing GM maize. They have realized that after several harvests, production is much less profitable," explains Juanjo Mayén, a farmer from Binéfar in Huesca, Aragon. GM maize plants contain Bt, an insecticide that kills the worms that eat them. Farmers are convinced that GM maize eventually hurts yields. Cooperative members from Huesca claim to have conducted field studies that show lower productivity in the medium term. Monsanto refused to answer questions from Economia Digital about farmers’ rejection of GM maize. The company insists that GMOs are an effective way to combat hunger in the world but local producers consulted by Economia Digital refute this theory. “Transgenic seeds have reduced and in some cases eliminated local food crop species," explains Juan Carlos Simon, an Aragon-based farmer. A report by the Government of Aragon published in 2014 says that in the latest harvests in the region, attacks by the corn borer have decreased, which has allowed non-GM crops to be more efficient than GM, in economic terms."
Spain: Farmers abandon Monsanto’s GM maize en masse
GM Watch, 6 July 2016

"'Today, soybean producers spend 88 percent more on crop protectant products than they did six years ago. Aside from seed expense, crop protection products (chemicals) are the most expensive input soybean producers pay for,' said Tong Wang, SDSU Extension Advanced Production Specialist, referencing the 2015 farm enterprise analysis data from FINBIN, the farm financial management database, which showed the average cash-rent soybean production farms in Minnesota, North and South Dakota incurred a crop chemical cost of $39 per acre.... With the emergence of glyphosate resistant weeds, planting of glyphosate tolerant crops is no longer the most effective way to control weeds. It is likely the reason that the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service data indicated that the percent of glyphosate tolerant soybean planted in South Dakota dropped slightly - from 98 percent in 2012 to 96 percent in 2015. Wang said glyphosate resistance may also be the reason more South Dakota growers are scouting their fields for weed and pest pressure today than in the past. The NASS survey showed monitoring fields increased slightly since 2012.... Glyphosate resistant weeds may also be the reason that herbicide usage in soybean fields in on the rise. The NASS survey showed that while soybean acres increased 30 percent from 3.95 million acres in 2006 to 5.15 million acres in 2015, total herbicide use increased 61 percent.  'Over the past decade, glyphosate usage has gradually declined, both in terms of percentage of planted acres and total amount applied,' Wang said.  She added. 'The disproportional increase in non-glyphosate herbicide usage compared to acre planted could partly explain the increase in crop chemical expenditure in soybean production in recent years on a per acre basis,' Wang said."
What NASS survey says about soybean protection practices
Agweek, 1 June 2016

"A new report released this week by The National Academy of Science (NAS) – Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects – provides some useful perspectives on the contentious debate surrounding genetically engineered (GE) crops, and is particularly noteworthy for calling into question the frequent claim that GE crops are key to “feeding the world.” But in other respects it is shallow and disappointing due to the lack of holistic analysis and frequent bias in favor of GE crops and herbicides whose use they promote. The committee that produced the report devoted considerable space to assessing the yield implications of current genetically engineered crops, which were developed to survive treatment with herbicides and/or provide resistance to certain insect pests. Overall, the NAS committee found a steady increase in U.S. crop yields that spans both the pre-biotech and biotech eras. This strongly implies that other factors, such as advances in conventional breeding methods, have played a critical role in raising crop productivity. By contrast, they found no evidence that GE traits provided measureable increases in overall crop productivity.... The NAS committee’s assessment of herbicide-resistant GE crops provides some relevant analysis, for instance that these crops have increased overall herbicide use. NAS also refutes the popular myth that herbicide-resistant crops advance soil conservation, showing instead that U.S. federal farm policy introduced in 1985, a decade before GE crops, is largely responsible for promoting farmer adoption of soil-conserving techniques such as no-till."
National Academy of Sciences Finds Genetically Engineered Crops Not the Solution to World Hunger
Center For Food Safety, 23 May 2016

"The nation-wide data on maize, cotton, or soybean in the United States do not show a significant signature of genetic-engineering technology on the rate of yield increase... The use of HR [Herbicide Resistant] crops sometimes initially correlated with decreases in total amount of herbicide applied per hectare of crop per year, but the decreases have not generally been sustained..... Weed resistance to glyphosate is a problem.... Although multiple strategies can be used to delay weed resistance, there is insufficient empirical evidence to determine which strategy is expected to be most effective in a given cropping system....Both GE crops and the percentage of cropping area farmed with no-till and reduced-till practices have increased over the last two decades. However, cause and effect are difficult to determine...."
Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, United States, May 2016

"A report from the US National Academy of Sciences says that genetically modified crops are as safe as their conventional counterparts, but finds no evidence that GM crops have significantly boosted yields over the past two decades."
US NAS report says GM crops safe, but questions benefits
Agrow, 19 May 2016

"Professor Wayne Parrott, of Georgia University’s crop and soil sciences department, said the report was a 'sober assessment' of the current knowledge about GM crops. 'The inescapable conclusion, after reading the report, is the GM crops are pretty much just crops. They are not the panacea that some proponents claim, nor the dreaded monsters that others claim,' he said."
GM crops ‘safe to eat and don’t harm environment’. Really?
iNews, 17 May 2016

"India grows 95 per cent of its cotton from genetically modified hybrid seeds, which have proved defenceless against pests and weather change, leading to devastating losses....In 2014, after the Bt cotton crop failed in over 56,000 hectares in seven districts of Karnataka, the state government blacklisted Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Private Limited), in which Monsanto has a 26 per cent stake. Ground visits by government agencies and Mahyco representatives pegged the loss at 235 cr [rupees]. Mahyco offered the farmers a token compensation of 10 crore [rupees], which the state government rejected and instead gave 35 crore [rupees] to the farmers on its own. “The people of India have paid 270 crore [rupees] and the company profited,” says Mohini Mohan Mishra, secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS). In 2015, whitefly attacked and destroyed nearly two-thirds of the cotton crop in Punjab and Haryana even after the farmers sprayed pesticides repeatedly. “Four years ago it was the mealy bug, last year it was the whitefly which attacked,” says Mishra. Within a decade, input costs have increased threefold as seeds become more expensive and farmers have had to use more fertilisers to increase yield while also spraying pesticides. In 2012, farmers spent ?63,751 per hectare, compared to less than ?30,000 in 2007, as the figures compiled by the Cotton Advisory Board of India show. An increase in the international price of cotton is the reason farmers are still able to make some profit and continue growing the crop. Seed prices make up a significant part of the input costs, as GM seeds are more expensive and cannot be reused — farmers buy them from seed companies every year. For the first time, this year, a Central government committee capped seed prices at 635 [rupees] (450 g packet) for the BG-1 hybrid and 800 [rupees] for the BG-2 hybrid. “The price of seeds has risen uncontrollably; companies are selling at their will and crops are failing,” says Mishra. The country’s cotton production has been falling yearly, even as pesticide use has increased to the levels seen before Bt cotton was introduced. While it’s true that pesticide use shrank initially, in the last three years, however, farmers have used 1 kg/hectare as they scrambled to contain the bollworm and whitefly. It is estimated that over 50 per cent of the pesticides used in the country ends up being sprayed on cotton crops. As for fertilisers, hybrids have always required more. “The volume of fertiliser use has increased; we are now using 1 kg/ hectare compared to .9 kg/hectare before 2002,” says Kavitha Kuruganti, convenor at ASHA Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. “Chemical fertiliser use has increased threefold in the last five years, and this will burden public finances as our fertilisers are subsidised,” she adds. Bt cotton had promised higher yield, low fertiliser use and tolerance to pests, but 15 years on, it has failed on all counts. As pests develop resistance, farmers are forced to increase pesticide use."
Fly in the face of Bt cotton
Hindu Business Line, 6 May 2016

Introduction of Bt cotton in dry, rain-fed areas was a mistake. Farmers have been wiped off,' laments Mauli Tupe, President of the Maharashtra unit of the BKS. 'Desi kapaas or indigenous cotton varieties are ideal for regions like Vidarbha and Marathwada.' This region has seen a spate of farmers' suicides. The duo explain that better yields have occurred largely in 'newly' irrigated lands in Gujarat and that the same results were difficult even in the traditionally irrigated stretches ...In 2015, an insect called the pink bollworm started displaying resistance to Bt. Large tracts of cotton crops are now infected by the pink bollworm prompting Kranthi to indicate that it may well be 'the end of the road' for Bt cotton in India and that it's about time to reconsider the entire gamut of issues governing cotton."
How Monsanto found an able adversary in the Sangh parivaar
Economic Times, 29 March 2016

"The most serious effort to commercialize golden rice is centered at the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the globe's most prestigious incubator of high-yielding rice varieties. Launched with grants from the Rockefeller and Ford foundations in 1960, the IRRI spearheaded the Asian part of what became known as the Green Revolution—the effort to bring US-style industrial agriculture to the developing world. (My review of Nick Cullather's excellent Green Revolution history, The Hungry World, is here.) Today, the IRRI coordinates the Golden Rice Network and has been working to develop a viable strain since 2006. And so far, it's having trouble. On its website, the IRRI reports that in the latest field trials, golden rice varieties "showed that beta carotene was produced at consistently high levels in the grain, and that grain quality was comparable to the conventional variety." However, the website continues, "yields of candidate lines were not consistent across locations and seasons." Translation: The golden rice varieties exhibited what's known in agronomy circles as a "yield drag"—they didn't produce as much rice as the non-GM varieties they'd need to compete with in farm fields. So the IRRI researchers are going back to the drawing board..... Even if and when the IRRI does come up with a high-yielding golden rice variety that passes regulatory muster, it remains unclear whether it can actually make a dent in vitamin A deficiency. As the Washington University's Stone notes, vitamin A deficiency often affects people whose diets are also deficient in other vital nutrients. Vitamin A is fat soluble, meaning it can't be taken up by the body unless it's accompanied by sufficient dietary fat, which isn't delivered in significant quantities by rice, golden or otherwise. According to Stone, only one feeding study (PDF) has ever showed a powerful uptake of vitamin A by subjects eating golden rice. The paper was much cited by golden rice proponents, but Stone says it had a major flaw: The subjects were "well-nourished individuals" who already took in sufficient fat in their diets. The study "demonstrated only that Golden Rice worked in children who did not need it," he writes. (The study has since been retracted on claims that the author failed to obtain proper consent from the parents of the participants). Meanwhile, as the IRRI scrambles to perfect golden rice, the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency is declining in the Philippines—according to the IRRI itself— from 40 percent of children aged six months to five years in 2003, to 15.2 percent in 2008. "The exact reasons for these improvements have not been determined, but they may be the results of proven approaches to preventing vitamin A deficiency, such as vitamin A supplementation, dietary diversification, food fortification and promotion of optimal breastfeeding," the group noted. That drop is part of a long-term trend that involves all of Southeast Asia. According to a 2015 Lancet study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, vitamin A deficiency plagued 39 percent of children in the region in 1991 but only 6 percent in 2013—without the help of golden rice. But VAD, as the deficiency's known, remains a huge scourge on the Indian subcontinent and in Africa, the study found, affecting more than 40 percent of children in both regions. Whether golden rice will ever help mitigate that ongoing tragedy won't likely be known for some time. But the technology's hardly the slam-dunk panacea its advocates insist it is."
WTF Happened to Golden Rice?
Mother Jones, 3 February 2016

"The efficacy of genetically modified Bt cotton in resisting pest attacks has declined over the years, the central government told the Delhi high court. As a result, royalties charged by a technology giant like Monsanto must also come down, it argued. The government’s response came in a dispute over an order to regulate cotton seed prices and fix royalties. The order is being challenged by Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India Pvt. Ltd (MMBL), a joint venture between Mahyco and Monsanto. The company petitioned the high court to quash certain provisions in the price control order, specifically those allowing the centre to determine trait or royalty fees. “Pink bollworm, a major pest to the cotton crop, has already developed resistance in the last 2-3 years; farmers are a worried lot having sown Bt cotton seeds purchased at high price,” the government said in an affidavit.It added, “The crop is getting damaged due to pink bollworm incidence. It is a natural phenomenon that over the years efficacy of the technology goes down, hence the royalty on technology should also be reduced.”"
Centre tells Delhi high court Bt cotton’s resistance to pests has waned
Live Mint, 29 January 2016

 
2015

"GM insecticidal maize MON810 doesn’t give higher yields or reduce pest attacks compared with conventional varieties. These are the findings of a report published by the Government of the Aragon region of Spain. Three-quarters of maize production in the region is GM. At several locations in Aragon in 2014, different conventional and GM maize varieties were tested and compared. In the case of varieties as "Helen", "Zoom" and "Kayras" the non-GM isogenic (parent) lines were compared with the GM varieties derived from each line. So the comparison is meaningful. The genetic insert was the MON810 construct from the US company Monsanto. This produces maize plants that constantly express Bt insecticide. MON810 is the only GM maize that may be cultivated in the EU. Per hectare, according to the report, from 12,600 to 14,300 kg of maize were harvested.* The GM varieties and the non-GM conventional comparator had very similar yields. 'There are no significant differences,' according to the official report. The data also show that the corn borer, the pest targeted by the Bt insecticide in MON810 maize, has caused no significant damage in the past five years, either to GM or non-GM varieties. Spain is the EU leader in the cultivation of GM maize. Last year official figures say that 131,000 hectares were grown, around one-third of the country’s total maize production. A total of 41 percent of this was grown in the region of Aragon, where the maize crop is 76 percent GM."
GM maize MON810 doesn’t give higher yields or reduce pest damage
GM Watch, 9 December 2015

"Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) has asked the State government to ensure that Bt cotton companies pay compensation to farmers whose crops were destroyed by corn earworm across the State. Addressing a media conference here on Tuesday, State president of the organisation Chamarasa Malipatil said that nearly half of the Bt cotton crop was destroyed due to the Helicoverpa pest. “At the time of introducing Bt cotton in India a few years ago, there was a big propaganda that it was pest-resistance. Now, we find that the genetically modified organism, Bt cotton, is vulnerable to corn earworm. An overwhelming majority of cotton growers have cultivated Bt cotton this time. Over 50 percent of cultivated Bt cotton of all brands have now been destroyed by the pest attack. The seed companies that sold Bt cotton seeds to farmers are liable to pay compensation and the government should ensure that they do,” he said. He added that vast tracts of Bt cotton fields in Andhra Pradesh were also destroyed by the corn earworm. He suspected that seed companies might have supplied substandard seeds to farmers in order to deal with growing cotton stock in the international market."
KRRS seeks relief from seed companies for failure of Bt cotton
The Hindu, 2 December 2015

"Monsanto’s Intacta RR2 PRO soybeans are outperformed by non-GM soybeans in the major soy-producing regions of Brazil, according to new scientific study reported in Valor Econômico. Intacta soybeans contain genes for tolerance to glyphosate herbicide and a Bt insecticidal toxin.  According to the study, which was carried out by the Center for Advanced Studies in Applied Economics (Cepea) of ESALQ at the University of São Paulo, Intacta soybeans showed an average yield close to that of Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans, the first generation of Monsanto GM seeds. However, both GM crops were outperformed by conventional (non-GM) soybeans, which yielded better and were more profitable for farmers. The yield performance ranking was as follows: Non-GM soy: 57.1 bags per hectare (a bag is 60 kg) Intacta RR2 PRO GM soy (RR2): 54.8 bags per hectare Roundup Ready GM soy: 52.4 bags per hectare The profitability ranking was as follows: Non-GM soy: R$ (Brazilian Real) 369/hectare Intacta RR2 PRO GM soy: R$ 333/ha Roundup Ready GM soy: R$ 128/ha The survey, based on technical field visits and consultation with universities, took into account data from 258 producers and consultants in 27 municipalities of 10 Brazilian states: Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goias, Parana, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais, Maranhão, Piauí, and Tocantins, during the season 2014/15. The municipalities were divided into three groups, according to types of soybean planted: non-GMO soy, Roundup Ready GM soy, and Intacta RR2 PRO GM soy. Regarding productivity, in the 16 municipalities surveyed where Intacta soybeans were planted, average yield was 54.8 bags per hectare. This was slightly above the 52.4 bags/ha in the 25 municipalities that planted the older Monsanto product, Roundup Ready GM soy. But the performance of non-GMO soybeans stood out at 57.1 bags per hectare, although this average came from a restricted sample of six municipalities. There is a significant irony in the fact that in terms of planting area, non-GM soybeans are being squeezed out by lesser-performing GM varieties. In 2010 Monsanto, which controls the seed market in Brazil, brought in the “85/15 rule”, which meant that farmers could only buy 15% non-GM seed – the other 85% had to be GM. So even those farmers who wanted to grow non-GMO soybeans often had trouble getting hold of seed."
GM soy produces less than non-GMO – university study
GM Watch, 27 November 2015

"The company has prepared for years for this patent expiration: They released soybeans with the Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield trait several years ago—one that results from the modification of the same gene as classic Roundup Ready, but in a different part of the genome. And it’s not just a sleight-of-hand “reformulation”: This modification actually works better than the original, which makes soybean plants resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. The gene modification in classic Roundup Ready can actually reduce soybean yields, whereas Roundup Ready 2 doesn’t. Many farmers will just switch to using Roundup Ready 2 rather than use the lower-yield generics, says David Zilberman, an economist who researches the economics of GMOs at the University of California, Berkeley.... generics being sold right now are going for half the price of Monsanto’s newer seeds. “This is old technology, and everybody is looking to new technology,” says Pengyin Chen, a soybean breeder at the University of Arkansas who developed one of the first commercial generic Roundup Ready soybeans. 'When the iPhone 7 comes out, no one will want to work on the iPhone 6.' Farmers planted Chen’s generic seeds for the first time this year—and while they may be able to save them for the next season, the generic seeds simply aren’t worth it because of their decreased yield. At this point, Chen estimates that his soybeans have five to seven percent less yield than Roundup Ready 2 seeds.... Chen has been working with Roundup Ready soybeans for over ten years to develop plants that are resistant to soybean diseases common to Arkansas. He’s also working to develop a generic that makes up for some of the yield losses caused by the original gene."
Generic GMOs Aren’t Going to Bring Down Monsanto’s Empire
Wired, 5 August 2015

".... [Monsanto] released soybeans with the Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield trait several years ago—one that results from the modification of the same gene as classic Roundup Ready, but in a different part of the genome...This modification actually works better than the original, which makes soybean plants resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. The gene modification in classic Roundup Ready can actually reduce soybean yields, whereas Roundup Ready 2 doesn’t.... Pengyin Chen [ls] a soybean breeder at the University of Arkansas who developed one of the first commercial generic Roundup Ready soybeans..... At this point, Chen estimates that his [original Roundup Ready] soybeans have five to seven percent less yield than Roundup Ready 2 seeds. ... Chen has been working with Roundup Ready soybeans for over ten years to develop plants that are resistant to soybean diseases common to Arkansas. He’s also working to develop a generic that makes up for some of the yield losses caused by the original gene."
Generic GMOs Aren’t Going to Bring Down Monsanto’s Empire
Wired, 5 August 2015

"[Tom] Peters [a sugar beet agronomist with University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University extension services] says waterhemp is the No. 1 weed challenge for beet growers, ahead of common ragweed, giant ragweed and even kochia. In the mid-2000s, the waterhemp weed became more prevalent in the sugar beet growing region — especially the herbicide-resistant biotypes. Even a few untreated weeds in a field can lead to major infestations within a couple of years. Iowa State University scientists say the weed has flourished with adoption of reduced tillage, increased dependence on glyphosate (Roundup), and reductions in cultivation for weed management. The weed is aided by increased temperatures and soil moisture, according to the ISU website. Peters says the southern Red River Valley represented an imaginary northernmost line of glyphosate-resistant waterhemp infestation in 2014. In 2015, that line seems to have migrated all the way up to Highway 2 in Grand Forks, N.D. 'Sixty miles in one year, can you imagine that?' Peters says. Jeff Stachler, Peters’ predecessor and now the Auglaize County Extension Service agent for Ohio State University in Wapakoneta, agrees that waterhemp is a major threat, especially because of the acres it covers, and because it moves quickly. Stachler wonders if the waterhemp was that far north earlier — perhaps hiding in soybeans — but went unnoticed until this year. 'If you’re using glyphosate alone, you’re going to find out what’s out there,' Stachler says. 'You’re doing the maximum selection with glyphosate in beets.'... From the get-go, Peters knows any chemical solution for beets first must demonstrate crop safety.  Peters thinks beet farmers likely will need pre-emergence herbicides to handle waterhemp. The likeliest help is metolachlor with the product names such as Dual, Magnum, Cinch and other generics. Metolachlor has a history of injuring beets when applied at high rates and under certain environmental conditions, Peters says.... Peters underlines that glyphosate remains an important place in a sugar beet weed management strategy. 'Roundup still controls a lot of weeds and I can see it in my plots, but for tough weeds — weeds like waterhemp — we need other programs, other strategies and we need to implement them in a timely fashion.'"
Herbicide-resistant weed jumps 60 miles in a year
Grand Forks Herald, 4 August 2015

"... widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops has led to overreliance on herbicides and, in particular, on glyphosate.5 In the United States, glyphosate use has increased by a factor of more than 250 — from 0.4 million kg in 1974 to 113 million kg in 2014. Global use has increased by a factor of more than 10. Not surprisingly, glyphosate-resistant weeds have emerged and are found today on nearly 100 million acres in 36 states. Fields must now be treated with multiple herbicides, including 2,4-D, a component of the Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War."
GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health
New England Journal Medicine 2015; 373:693-695, August 20, 2015

"Currently, there are a number of weed species confirmed resistant to glyphosate in the Mid-South, including common ragweed, giant ragweed, goose-grass, horseweed, Italian ryegrass, johnsongrass, Palmer amaranth, waterhemp and spiny amaranth. Resistant biotypes of these species are spreading at an alarming rate in some states."
Managing Glyphosate Resistant Weeds in Cotton
Delta Farm Press, 20 June 2015

"A new study from North Carolina State University and Clemson University finds that the toxin in a widely used genetically modified (GM) crop is having little impact on the crop pest called corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea) – which is consistent with predictions made almost 20 years ago that had been largely ignored. The study may be a signal to pay closer attention to warning signs about the development of resistance in agricultural pests to GM crops.... Reisig and his collaborator, Francis Reay-Jones of Clemson, evaluated corn crop sites in both North Carolina and South Carolina over two years – and the results were fairly stark. In the late 1990s, Cry1Ab reduced both the number of H. zea larvae and the size of the larvae, compared to non-Bt corn. But Reisig and Reay-Jones found that Cry1Ab now has little or no effect on number or size of H. zea larvae compared to non-Bt corn. 'There was a warning that zea could develop a resistance to this toxin,' Reisig says. 'But no changes were made in how to manage Cry1Ab, and now it appears that zea has developed resistance.' However, Reisig notes that they cannot say H. zea has definitively developed resistance, because the study was a field experiment, rather than an experiment done in a laboratory setting with pure Cry1Ab toxin. 'Our focus was on determining if there were real-world effects, and there were,' Reisig says. 'This may also explain why zea – a significant cotton pest – is becoming less responsive to a related toxin used in GM cotton called Cry1Ac. 'This finding is of limited economic impact at the moment,' Reisig says. 'Because agriculture companies have already developed new, more effective Bt toxins for use against H. zea. 'But the study is important. The methods that are agreed upon to show resistance are somewhat arbitrary. The agreed upon metrics for demonstrating field fitness are laboratory studies with an agreed upon diagnostic dose of the toxin. I, and many others, feel that field observations are screaming that changes are happening, but that this is largely ignored. That was one reason for the study. 'These findings are a reminder that we need to pay attention to potential clues about developing resistance,' Reisig says. 'We can’t expect there to always be a new GM toxin available to replace the old one.'"
Is the Bt trait less effective for corn earworms?
Dairy Herd Management, 22 May 2015

"Widespread glyphosate use for corn and soybean has led to glyphosate resistance, which is now documented in 14 weed species affecting U.S. cropland, and recent surveys suggest that acreage with glyphosate-resistant (GR) weeds is expanding. Data from USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), along with the Benchmark Study (conducted independently by plant scientists), are used to address several issues raised by the spread of GR weeds. Choices made by growers that could help manage glyphosate resistance include using glyphosate during fewer years, combining it with one or more alternative herbicides, and, most importantly, not applying glyphosate during consecutive growing seasons. As a result, managing glyphosate resistance is more cost effective than ignoring it, and after about 2 years, the cumulative impact of the returns received is higher when managing instead of ignoring resistance.... glyphosate’s effectiveness is declining as weed resistance mounts—14 glyphosate-resistant (GR) weed species currently affect U.S. crop-production areas. GR weeds can reduce crop yields and increase weed-control costs, and recent surveys suggest that the amount of affected cropland is increasing. ....  In surveys of crop production practices, growers were asked to report their concerns about glyphosate resistance, either as the presence of  'GR weeds' in corn or 'declines in glyphosate effectiveness' in soybeans. They reported GR-weed infestations on 5.6 percent of the corn acres in 2010 and declines in glyphosate effectiveness in about 40 percent of soybean acres in 2012, with the majority of those acres in the Corn Belt and Northern Plains. ... While more herbicide active ingredient was applied to corn than to soybeans, herbicides other than glyphosate accounted for most of the herbicide applied to corn acres. In addition, tillage, which controls weeds without promoting herbicide resistance, was used on a greater share of corn than soybean acreage, whereas no-till was used on a greater share of soybeans than corn acreage.... Corn and soybean growers responded similarly to the reported presence of GR weeds or declines in glyphosate effectiveness. The most common survey response—consistent with glyphosate-resistance management—was to use other herbicides in addition to glyphosate. Growers used this practice on over 84 percent of corn acres with GR weeds and on 71 percent of soybean acres with reduced glyphosate effectiveness. The next most common response was to increase the amount of glyphosate used. Growers used this practice on 25 percent of corn acres with GR weeds and 39 percent of soybean acres with reduced glyphosate effectiveness. Corn growers who reported GR weeds and soybean growers who reported reduced glyphosate effectiveness realized lower returns than similar corn and soybean growers who did not report them. In addition, corn and soybean growers who used glyphosate alone received lower yields and returns than similar corn and soybean growers who used at least one other herbicide in combination with glyphosate. Although the crop growers using more than one herbicide had higher production costs, the additional costs were more than offset by higher yields.....  The emergence of the HT varieties led corn and soybean growers to increase their use of glyphosate over time and reduce their use of all other herbicides. During 1996-2003, herbicide use in corn and soybean production declined from about 293 million pounds of active ingredient to around 247 million pounds. Since 2003, herbicide use on acreage planted with these two crops has increased to almost 353 million pounds of active ingredient in 2013, with glyphosate accounting for over 57 percent of the total..... The increase in herbicide use in corn and soybean production is partially due to the increase in acres planted to these two crops—from 152 million acres in 2003 to 175 million acres in 2013.... glyphosate is becoming less effective at controlling some weeds. The International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds identified 14 glyphosate-resistant (GR) weed species currently affecting U.S. crop-production areas (Heap, 2014).... Weed management in corn fields involves not only glyphosate, but also other inexpensive herbicides, such as atrazine. In contrast, weed management in soybean fields is largely managed with glyphosate alone, because the next best alternative herbicides to control soybean weeds, especially broadleaf weeds, are more expensive, less effective, and can injure soybean plants (NRC, 2010). These facts help explain why GT soybean adoption was more rapid than GT corn adoption, why much more glyphosate was used in soybean than in corn production, and why far more soybean than corn acres received glyphosate by itself during 1996-2012..... Herbicide use on soybeans in surveyed States increased from about 60 million pounds of active ingredient (a.i.) in 1996 to 103 million pounds in 2006 (see fig. 2). Glyphosate’s share increased from 15 percent of the herbicide active ingredient applied in 1996 to 55 percent in 2000; by 2006, its share had increased to 89 percent. The percentage of soybean acres (in surveyed States) treated with glyphosate, by itself or in combination with other herbicides, increased from about 25 percent in 1996 to over 60 percent in 2000, and to about 95 percent in 2006 (fig. 3). Moreover, soybean acres treated with glyphosate as the sole herbicide increased from only 9 percent in 1996 to 73 percent in 2006. Because of the presence of GR weeds in soybean fields, discussed later, both of these trends changed between 2006 and 2012. The amount of other herbicides (with different MOAs) applied to soybeans almost doubled, from 11.4 million pounds in 2006 to 22.5 million pounds in 2012 (see fig. 2).8 As a result, glyphosate accounted for 82 percent of total herbicide active ingredient applied to soybeans in 2012, down from 89 percent. The soybean acreage that received glyphosate by itself also declined, from 51 million in 2006 to 30 million in 2012 (a decline from 73 percent to 44 percent of glyphosate-treated acreage), because the number of soybean acres that received glyphosate and at least one different herbicide MOA more than doubled, from 19 million acres in 2006 to over 38 million acres in 2012 (an increase from 27 percent to 56 percent of glyphosate-treated acreage) (see fig. 3)....   Much more total herbicide was applied in corn than in soybean production, and herbicides other than glyphosate accounted for the majority of herbicides used on corn fields. Herbicide use on corn in surveyed States declined from 191 million pounds of active ingredient in 1996 to 143 million pounds in 2001, but then increased to 175 million pounds in 2010 (see fig. 2). Glyphosate accounted for only 1 percent of herbicide use in 1996, but as HT corn varieties were planted to more acres, glyphosate use grew to 35 percent of total herbicides applied in 2010. The percentage of glyphosate-treated corn acreage rose steadily from 4 percent of planted acres in 1996 to 35 percent in 2005 to 73 percent in 2010. So, the majority of surveyed corn acreage received no glyphosate from 1996 (96 percent) to 2005 (65 percent). The percentage of all glyphosate-treated corn acres that received only glyphosate increased from about 1 percent in 1996 to 21 percent in 2000 to 44 percent in 2005, but declined to only 23 percent in 2010, perhaps due to the presence of GR weeds (see fig. 3).9 So, the majority of glyphosate-treated corn acres received at least one additional herbicide MOA throughout this period, with the lowest percentage occurring in 2005..... Tillage was used on over half of corn and soybean acres, with a greater percentage of corn than soybean acres being tilled."
The Economics of Glyphosate Resistance Management in Corn and Soybean Production
US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Economic Research Report Number 184, April 2015

"A new study from North Carolina State University and Clemson University finds that the toxin in a widely used genetically modified (GM) crop is having little impact on the crop pest called corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea) – which is consistent with predictions made almost 20 years ago that had been largely ignored. The study may be a signal to pay closer attention to warning signs about the development of resistance in agricultural pests to GM crops.... Reisig and his collaborator, Francis Reay-Jones of Clemson, evaluated corn crop sites in both North Carolina and South Carolina over two years – and the results were fairly stark. In the late 1990s, Cry1Ab reduced both the number of H. zea larvae and the size of the larvae, compared to non-Bt corn. But Reisig and Reay-Jones found that Cry1Ab now has little or no effect on number or size of H. zea larvae compared to non-Bt corn. 'There was a warning that zea could develop a resistance to this toxin,' Reisig says. 'But no changes were made in how to manage Cry1Ab, and now it appears that zea has developed resistance.' However, Reisig notes that they cannot say H. zea has definitively developed resistance, because the study was a field experiment, rather than an experiment done in a laboratory setting with pure Cry1Ab toxin. 'Our focus was on determining if there were real-world effects, and there were,' Reisig says. 'This may also explain why zea – a significant cotton pest – is becoming less responsive to a related toxin used in GM cotton called Cry1Ac. 'This finding is of limited economic impact at the moment,' Reisig says. 'Because agriculture companies have already developed new, more effective Bt toxins for use against H. zea. 'But the study is important. The methods that are agreed upon to show resistance are somewhat arbitrary. The agreed upon metrics for demonstrating field fitness are laboratory studies with an agreed upon diagnostic dose of the toxin. I, and many others, feel that field observations are screaming that changes are happening, but that this is largely ignored. That was one reason for the study. 'These findings are a reminder that we need to pay attention to potential clues about developing resistance,' Reisig says. 'We can’t expect there to always be a new GM toxin available to replace the old one.'"
Is the Bt trait less effective for corn earworms?
Dairy Herd Management, 22 May 2015

"Use of a class of insecticides, called neonicotinoids, increased dramatically in the mid-2000s and was driven almost entirely by the use of corn and soybean seeds treated with the pesticides, according to researchers at Penn State. 'Previous studies suggested that the percentage of corn acres treated with insecticides decreased during the 2000s, but once we took seed treatments into account we found the opposite pattern,' said Margaret Douglas, graduate student in entomology. 'Our results show that application of neonicotinoids to seed of corn and soybeans has driven a major surge in the U.S. cropland treated with insecticides since the mid-2000s.'.....   After discovering that neonicotinoid seed treatments were not explicitly documented in U.S. government pesticide surveys, the researchers synthesized available information to characterize the widespread use of these insecticides. First they compiled pesticide data from two public sources -- the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- that both reported aspects of neonicotinoid use, but did not estimate seed treatment use specifically. Using these data, together with information from insecticide product labels, the team estimated the percentage of land planted in corn and soybeans in which neonicotinoid-treated seeds have been used since these products were introduced in the mid-2000s. They corroborated their results with information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DuPont Pioneer, a major seed supplier. The team found that in 2000, less than 5 percent of soybean acres and less than 30 percent of corn acres were treated with an insecticide, but by 2011, at least a third of all soybean acres and at least 79 percent of all corn acres were planted with neonicotinoid-coated seed, constituting a significant expansion in insecticide use..... 'Adoption of neonicotinoid insecticides by seed companies and farmers has been very rapid and does not appear to relate well to a corresponding risk from insect pests,' said John Tooker, associate professor of entomology. 'This pattern suggests that neonicotinoids are often being used as an ‘insurance policy’ against uncertain insect attack, rather than in response to a documented pest threat.'"
Rapid increase in neonicotinoid insecticides driven by seed treatments
Penn State News, 2 April 2015

"U.S. regulators will put new restrictions on the world's most widely used herbicide to help address the rapid expansion of weeds resistant to the chemical, Reuters has learned. The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed it will require a weed resistance management plan for glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's immensely popular Roundup weed-killer. The agency has scheduled a conference call for next week with a committee of the Weed Science Society of America to discuss what the final plan for glyphosate should entail, said Larry Steckel, a Tennessee scientist who chairs the committee. An EPA spokeswoman declined to give specifics of the plan, but told Reuters that its requirements will be similar to those placed on a new herbicide product developed by Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical Co. Requirements for the Dow herbicide include weed monitoring, farmer education and remediation plans. The company is required to provide extensive reporting to the EPA about instances of weed resistance and to let 'relevant stakeholders' know about the difficulties of controlling them via a company-established website. Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord would not discuss whether the company was negotiating a plan with regulators, but said Monsanto'will continue to work with the EPA to ensure proper product stewardship as we move through the regulatory process.'At least 14 weed species and biotypes in the United States have developed glyphosate resistance, affecting more than 60 million acres of U.S. farmland, according to data gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. weed scientists. The herbicide-resistant weeds hinder crop production and make farming more difficult and expensive. The EPA's action comes in the wake of a finding by the World Health Organization's cancer research unit this month that glyphosate is 'probably carcinogenic to humans,' a conclusion the working group said was based on a review of years of scientific research. Testing has found residues of the herbicide in water, food, urine and breast milk. The EPA’s weed management plan will not address human health concerns, but the agency is also analyzing health data as part of a required reevaluation of the herbicide. The EPA’s preliminary risk assessment of glyphosate is expected to be released for public comment later this year, and the agency will publish its proposed weed management plan for public comment at the same time. Regulators in the United States and many other countries have long considered glyphosate among the safest herbicides in use. A review of the chemical by the German government for the European Union last year concluded that no link to cancer has been established. And Monsanto Co., which held the patent on glyphosate until 2000 and last year sold more than $5 billion of Roundup herbicide, says the weed-killing agent has been proven safe repeatedly. Last week, the company blamed 'agenda-driven groups' for fueling false reports about glyphosate. But the chemical’s critics, including environmentalists, scientists and opponents of genetically modified foods, hope the WHO finding will help convince the EPA that tighter controls on the herbicide are needed, not just to prevent the growth of herbicide-resistant weeds, but also to protect human health."
EPA will require weed-resistance restrictions on glyphosate herbicide
Reuters, 31 March 2015

"A destructive insect's growing resistance to genetically modified corn seeds is costing American farmers as much as $2 billion annually, and now U.S. regulators may weigh in on the matter with moves that could affect both farmers and corporate agriculture giants such as Monsanto. The western corn rootworm appears to have evolved to eat the corn that was bioengineered to defeat it. That has led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider limits to continuous corn planting—experts say the practice of planting corn for three or more years in the same field has helped rootworms build up resistance. 'The GMO crops are available, and they've done a great job for a long time, but now we have a very formidable adversary with the western corn rootworm,' said Brad Howe, a corn grower who farms in Gilman, Illinois, near where some rootworm resistance problems have been found. 'They seem to be a pest that is able to constantly adapt to its environment and continue to change. So we've been fighting it and fighting it....The western corn rootworm has been around in the Corn Belt for decades but the voracious bugs started gaining resistance in the past several years to several varieties of engineered corn that utilize insect-specific toxin proteins, experts say. Rotating intermittently from corn to soybeans usually gets rid of the problem, but not always. 'Nobody understands how widespread it is,' said Bruce Hibbard, a research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 'For most of the United States, rotation of crops is the best and most simple solution. But there is an area in east central Illinois and western Indiana where the western corn rootworm has also evolved resistance to crop rotation.'.... Monsanto's Genuity SmartStax seed product, licensed from the Dow AgroSciences unit of Dow Chemical, utilizes a bug-killing technology with multiple Bt traits. A conventional bag of corn seed today runs around $160 a bag, while the SmartStax product is running at roughly $320 a bag, according to farmer Howe. 'You're paying a premium for the multiple traits and multiple modes of action for both above- and below-the-ground pests,' he said. 'Things are very tight this year for the extra added cost of the seed and fertilizers.'   Meanwhile, Indiana corn farmer Brian Scott said he's backed off buying the Bt corn over the last few years, because he's not in an area directly affected by the western rootworm.  'I'm not super scared about it,' he said. 'There are ways to manage it. We actually saved money backing off buying the Bt corn rootworm traits.' "
Western corn rootworm is getting the EPA's attention
CNBC,12 March 2015

"An environmental group that opposes genetically modified crops is issuing a 77-page report on the decline of the monarch butterfly that lays much of the blame on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops and Roundup herbicide. The Center for Food Safety will release the report Thursday and brief members of Congress on it. The report acknowledges that diminished wintering grounds for the migrating butterfly whose annual journey takes it through Missouri and Illinois plays a role in diminished monarch populations. But the report also contains one of the most direct challenges to date of Monsanto’s Roundup products and their impact on the butterfly. Among other things, the environmental organization calls for the phasing out of herbicide-resistant plants over 10 years, and for a halt in a new generation of genetically engineered crops it says are being planned by Monsanto and other companies. That phaseout has virtually no chance of getting through a Republican-controlled Congress, which is already in major fights with the administration of President Barack Obama on a variety of regulatory fronts. But on the heels of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to consider endangered species status for the butterfly, the report is another salvo in an escalating regulatory and public relations battle over the iconic monarch butterfly. Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord said the Creve Coeur-based company would not respond to the report without seeing it in full, but she said Monsanto was 'working, alongside many stakeholders including those in the agriculture sector, federal agencies, conservation groups, and public sector researchers, to help the monarchs.' The Center for Food Safety was among several environmental groups that in December successfully petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to open a study on whether the butterfly should be on the endangered species list, in part because of threats from genetically modified crops and herbicides. Monsanto is a leader in their production."
Monsanto's Roundup blamed for the decline of the monarch butterfly
St Louis Post-Dispatch, 4 February 2015

"The latest in a new generation of genetically engineered crops is poised to enter widespread use and critics think they’ll cause more problems than they solve.... The new crops now await commercial deployment pending an ongoing review by the Environmental Protection Agency. If approved, it will 'demonstrate once again that biotechnology in agriculture is all about increasing pesticide use and dependence,' said Bill Freese, a science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, an advocacy group that opposes the crops. In a critique of the USDA’s evaluation, Freese warned of 'an era of much increased use of and dependence on pesticides.' The cotton technically known as MON 88701, or Bollgard II® XtendFlex™Cotton can survive exposure to three herbicides: dicamba, glufosinate and glyphosate. The soybeans MON 88708, or Roundup Ready 2 XtendTM Soybeans withstand dicamba and glyphosate. The crops’ resistance means that farmers can spray entire fields of these crops with the herbicides, rather than laboriously targeting individual weeds. Existing versions of Monsanto’s cotton and soybeans are resistant only to glyphosate, better known by its trade name of Roundup. Developed in the late 1990s, these so-called Roundup Ready varieties soon became hugely popular, now accounting for some 75 percent of all US cotton and 90 percent of soybeans.... Over-reliance turned America’s agricultural landscape into an evolutionary crucible of accelerated selection for any genetic mutation that helped weeds survive glyphosate. The resulting plants, often called 'superweeds,' proliferated dramatically, and now infest at least 61 million acres of US farmland, an area roughly equivalent to the size of Michigan. Their spread is sending farmers scrambling for solutions. The industry’s response has focused on making crops withstand more herbicides: first Dow’s Enlist corn and soybean varieties, designed for spraying with both glyphosate and the 2,4-D herbicide, which were federally approved last fall, and now Monsanto’s Xtend cotton and soybeans.... Though non-glyphosate herbicide applications have increased dramatically in recent years, they’re still relatively low-volume especially in comparison to projected dicamba use in the Xtend system. Monsanto expects Xtend will eventually account for half of all US cotton planting and 40 percent of soybeans. Dicamba application would increase 14-fold on cotton in comparison to current use rates, and 88-fold on soybeans. For the latter crop, Freese estimates that farmers will use an additional 20 million pounds of herbicides every year.... Erosion control is one of the last quarter-century’s unsung agricultural achievements, said Freese. Soil conservation programs enacted in the 1985 Farm Bill encouraged farmers to take erosion-prone land out of production and also to practice conservation tillage, in which crop residue remains on fields all year. As a result, annual farmland erosion slowed from 3 billion tons in 1982 to 1.9 billion tons in 1997. Over the next decade, during Roundup Ready’s rise, soil erosion declined only minimally and now threatens to rise. That’s nominally what Xtend and other multiple herbicide-resistant crops are supposed to forestall, but 'by generating still more herbicide-intractable, multiple herbicide-resistant weeds,' they’ll make tillage and soil erosion more common, predicts Freese."
Monsanto’s Newest GM Crops May Create More Problems Than They Solve
Wired, 2 February 2015

"DuPont acknowledged a dent to seed sales in Brazil from the resistance of a major insect pest to genetically modified traits as the chemicals conglomerate unveiled a fourth successive quarter of declining agriculture sales. The US-based group, unveiling results for the October-to-December quarter in line with Wall Street expectations, said that revenues at its agricultural division fell 4.1% to $1.73bn. The decline reflected in part a 1% drop in sales of agrichemicals which, with a rise in sales volumes more than offset by a greater mix of lower priced products, and by currency headwinds. However, the drop was in the main down to DuPont's seeds business, Pioneer, which saw sales drop by 7%, thanks in the main to setbacks in Brazil. Brazilian corn seed sales were "negative impacted" by a decline in the popularity of the grain in sowings programmes, with market pricing, and a reduced need for inputs, switching growers to soybeans. Conab, Brazil's official crop bureau, has estimated at 6.17m hectares domestic 2014-15 sowings of main crop corn, a drop of 6.6% year on year. DuPont also said that in Brazil, "corn seed market share were lower reflecting the impact of fall armyworm resistance". Research in the US by Louisiana State University and North Carolina State University has highlighted the growing resistance of armyworms actually a moth caterpillar to some genetically modified corn seed.... Longer-term, the group highlighted the potential for its next generation of genetically modified seed, including its Leptra product which will 'bring an additional mode of control to help Brazilian farmers manage the intense pressure they face from insects, including fall armyworm'."
DuPont seed sales dip as pest gains resistance to GM corn
Agrimoney, 27 January 2015

"It appears that we are seeing at least an uptick in acres that are planted to conventional varieties. In the spring of 2014, the driver was federal refuge land where GMOs could not be planted (see Farmers slowly pushed from refuge). More recently, the driver has been lower cost of conventional soybean seed when compared to Roundup Ready and LibertyLink varieties. In talking to some local seed sales folks last month, this trend appears to be gaining steam. They told me they were sold out of conventional varieties due to unexpected demand....Herbicide costs for the conventional system will be about as expensive as for the Roundup Ready or LibertyLink systems. Seed costs should be anywhere from $10- to $40-per-acre less expensive, depending upon whether you are pulling them out of your bin or buying from a seed company. The biggest limitation to planting conventional soybeans is obtaining good-yielding varieties, particularly Group IVs."
More conventional soybean acres in 2015?
Delta Farm Press, 26 January 2015

"During 17 years when Bt-crops were used on an industrial scale, eight species of pests (seven species of lepidopterans from the order Lepidoptera belonging to four families and one species of coleopterous insects from the order Coleoptera) developed resistance to them. In five cases, the mutation of resistance was so widespread that it caused an economic damage. The rate of evolution of resistance to the so-called insecticidal plants (containing d-endotoxins or Cry-proteins causing the lysis of intestines in the larvae of insects from different orders) is comparable to the rate of evolution of resistance to chemical insecticides, which suggests that the production of pesticidal plants with a view to protect agricultural crops from the pests has no future. Plausible reasons are the following: first, it is impossible to produce transgenic plants, where expression of Cry-proteins in all tissues throughout the entire life cycle would be at the level lethal for the pests; second, in spite of the assumptions based on a low probability of the event, there arise not only dominant mutations of resistance but also recessive mutations that are not associated with the fitness costs; third, in spite of expectations there arises cross-resistance between Cry-proteins from different families."
Can Efficient Insecticidal Plants Be Created or the Evolution of Phytophage Resistance to Commercial Transgenic Bt Plants
Russian Journal of Plant Physiology, 2015, Vol. 62, No. 1: 14–22

"Monsanto Co. received final U.S. approval on Thursday for herbicide-tolerant crops to be used with a new herbicide the company says will fight problematic weed resistance on farm fields, but critics say will only worsen the problems. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said the genetically modified cotton and soybean plants are granted 'non-regulated' status. Monsanto is still waiting for final approval from the Environmental Protection Agency for the herbicide it designed to be used with the crops.... Monsanto developed the new soybeans and cotton to resist a new herbicide that combines dicamba and glyphosate and which Monsanto is branding as components of the 'Roundup Ready Xtend crop system.' The new products are aimed at combating the millions of acres of weeds that have grown resistant to Monsanto's glyphosate-based Roundup, which has been used extensively on the company's biotech corn, soybeans and cotton."
USDA approves Monsanto's new GMO soybeans, cotton
Reuters, 15 January 2015

2014

"Crop-devouring armyworms are showing increasing resistance in some U.S. farm fields to a popular type of genetically modified crop that should kill them, scientists said on Monday. The evolution of insect resistance 'is a great threat' long- term to the sustainability of the GMO crop biotechnology that has become a highly valued tool for many U.S. farmers, according to Fangneng Huang, an entomologist at Louisiana State University (LSU) and lead researcher for a three-year study.The study was published on Monday in the PLOS One online journal (www.plosone.org) for peer-reviewed research, after being presented at the Entomological Society of America annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. The research documents resistance by fall armyworms in the southeastern United States to the Cry1F protein found in many corn products developed Dow AgroSciences and DuPont to fight off the destructive pests. It is the latest evidence in recent years showing that insects are developing resistance to crops that have been genetically modified to kill them. Like the 'super weeds' that have developed resistance to glyphosate-based herbicide and make it harder for farmers to keep fields from being overrun with weeds, the armyworms are starting to devour corn crops that should repel them, said Dominic Reisig, an entomologist at North Carolina State University. Armyworms can be a problem for farmers in many U.S. states, but the resistant armyworms have been documented only in some areas of Florida and North Carolina. The range of these resistant armyworms is unknown, researchers said. They said farmers should plant more non-GMO corn as a refuge and possibly increase the use of pesticides to control the resistance. Dow and DuPont did not respond to requests for comment. The GMO corn at issue contains Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) genes. Bt corn, popular with farmers throughout the Americas, has been on the market roughly 18 years. Newer types of Bt corn with multiple modes of action are still showing effectiveness, Huang said. 'We don't know how long they can last,' Huang said. Researchers have also expressed concerns about Bt resistance in western corn rootworm. The study was conducted by researchers from LSU, North Carolina State University, the University of Florida, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the University of Minnesota and the University of Georgia."
Armyworm resistance to GMO crops seen in U.S. - study
Reuters, 17 November 2014

"A heavily promoted meta-analysis claiming to demonstrate the benefits of GM crops especially in developing countries does no such thing. It fails to separate from the GM trait the effects of confounding variables that are known to dramatically affect all measured parameters. Commentators are presenting misleading interpretations. A new meta-analysis of 147 studies is cited as evidence that GM crops have made substantial yield and profit increases and reduced pesticide use (Klumper and Qaim, 2014). However, it fails to differentiate between, on the one hand, differences in farmer income, ability to irrigate, and access to support—and importantly access to elite germplasm—and, on the other hand, the contribution of the GM trait. In other words, the meta-analysis confuses correlation with causation. Those quick to overstate the power of this study seemingly ignore that it is prone to distortion from environmental and temporal heterogeneity because it is a collection of mostly short-term observations lacking geographic continuity, disconnected in time and without uniform standards of measurement. This it has in common with some other meta-analyses that have been used to make similar claims about the certainty of benefits from GM cropping systems."
Jack Heinemann - Correlation is not causation
RightBiotech, 27 November 2014

"Brian Rossnagel is tired of proponents of genetically modified crops attributing all the yield increases in corn, soybeans and canola to biotechnology. 'They overstate the case,' said the retired University of Saskatchewan oat and barley breeder.? Groups such as the U.S. National Association of Wheat Growers are making the case for GM wheat by pointing out that wheat yields are lagging behind GM corn and soybean yields. NAWG vice-president Brett Blankenship recently raised the issue in an op-ed piece published in the Des Moines Register. 'Since 1994, corn yields have in-creased approximately 67 percent in the United States alone, while spring and winter wheat yields have in-creased half that amount,' he wrote. Blankenship implied that the 'astounding' production lag with wheat is because the other crops embraced GM technology. Rossnagel said that’s baloney. The major factor behind the big increase in corn yields is improved plant architecture, which came about through 'plain old plant breeding.' 'The leaves are dramatically more upright on the corn plant,' he said. That means growers can seed way more plants per acre, which results in more corncobs. ... 'The fact is that corn yields in Europe have gone up dramatically more than wheat yields in Europe and there sure as hell aren’t no GMOs involved in those European corn crops,' said Rossnagel."
Breeder annoyed GM given credit for yield hikes
Western Producer (Canada), 13 November 2014

"A new scientific publication co-authored by Monsanto employees, is warning that the cultivation of the genetically modified soybean Intacta (MON 87701 × MON 89788) could promote the spread of specific pest insects. According to the authors, the effects are likely to be caused by unintended effects in the plants, possibly arising from the insertion of the additional DNA. The genetically engineered soybean produced by Monsanto is resistant to herbicides containing glyphosate and produces a Bt insecticide. Brazilian scientists in collaboration with Monsanto employees have discovered that certain pest insects (Spodoptera eridania, southern armyworm), which can cause considerable damage in soybean fields, develop faster and live longer if their larvae feed off the plants. The scientific publication states: 'Our results should be viewed as an alert that S. eridania populations may increase in Bt soybeans' and the observed effects are 'favorable to pest development'. Monsanto now recommends releasing other predator insects that act as natural enemies of the southern armyworm if the genetically engineered soybeans are grown. The article states that 'these differences are less likely to directly result from the toxin presence but indirectly from unintended changes in plant characteristics caused by the insertion of the transgene or the breeding steps following transformation.' Not only was the genome of the soybean Intacta genetically engineered it was, in fact, subsequently crossed to combine the traits of herbicide resistance and insect toxicity. This may result in unintended interactions in the plants."
Monsanto warning on negative effects of growing its genetically engineered soybean 'Intacta'
Testbiotech, 2 October 2014

"With the first of a new generation of genetically engineered crops ready to hit the market, the battle lines are being drawn. Food safety activists have promised to fight the crops — corn and soybeans designed to tolerate multiple herbicides — in court. They and many scientists argue that these crops will harm environmental and possibly human health. The companies that make them say they’re providing a much-needed tool to fight the growing scourge of herbicide-resistant weeds. Lawsuits aside, these crops and others like them may force a showdown between conflicting approaches to farming: one that depends on chemicals to fight weeds, and another that embraces ecology’s lessons. 'We are on the brink of a crisis situation,' said Neil Harker, a weed ecologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the US Department of Agriculture. 'I do consider right now to be a watershed, direction-defining moment for agriculture.'.... Most corn, soy, and other field crops grown in the United States are genetically engineered to tolerate Roundup, a trait developed by agrotech giant Monsanto in the early 1990s. Glyphosate use exploded: rather than spraying herbicides on a weed-by-weed basis or pulling them by hand, farmers could use the herbicide on entire fields. 'This was an economically rational decision. It just wasn’t a biologically rational decision,' said herbicide- resistance specialist Stephen Powles at a recent Weed Science Society of America meeting. It favored the evolution of superweeds, which now pose an enormous agricultural threat. Superweeds now infest an estimated 70 million acres of U.S. farmland, causing roughly $1 billion in damage. The problem is growing fast, and farmers have scrambled for solutions. Dow and other large agrotech companies, including Monsanto, Pioneer, and Syngenta, have responded by engineering plants to withstand combinations of herbicides rather than glyphosate alone.... There are alternatives, Harker and other weed scientists say. They’ve simply been neglected—and not just by farmers and companies, but by scientists.... 'It is clear to most weed scientists who are involved in herbicide research, and even those who are not, that the best way to reduce selection pressure for herbicide resistance is to minimize herbicide use,' Harker wrote in a 2012 paper in the journal Weed Science. 'However, the ‘solutions’ that have emerged … have usually involved more herbicide use.' In a review of scientific papers published between 1994 and 2012, Harker found that studies on herbicide-based weed control methods dramatically outnumbered those on other methods. Known as integrated weed management, or IWM, these methods usually involve growing multiple crops in rotations designed to slow the spread of weeds.... For IWM to go mainstream, scientists must play a crucial role in making it as profitable and productive as herbicide-dependent industrial agriculture. They’ll fine-tune techniques like seeding rates, harvest times, weed seed destruction and the use of perennial plants, said Harker, and work with economists to show that the methods are viable at large scales. Transforming agricultural practices won’t be easy. Farms in the United States have steadily expanded while employing fewer people, making homogeneous, chemically-intensive approaches more convenient. Yet IWM already has a long track record of success. Many of its practices were used and refined by generations of farmers before glyphosate’s ubiquity. Weed ecologist Adam Davis of the USDA, who with agronomist Matt Liebman of Iowa State University has pioneered the modern study of IWM, said much of their work involved preserving knowledge that was previously maintained in oral traditions. 'The practices I was eager to see adopted 20 years ago are now being sought out by growers,' said Davis. He and Liebman have demonstrated that, with a few modern tweaks, those integrated methods can produce industrial-scale yields with comparatively small chemical input, at competitive costs. Herbicides are still a small but useful part of their system, applied judiciously when absolutely necessary. Which leads to another another criticism of the new, multiple herbicide-resistant crops: they’re making existing herbicides, particularly glyphosate, less useful. Glyphosate is popular for good reason. Compared to most other herbicides, including those making a return with the newly-engineered crops, it’s effective and fairly safe. In his talk, Powles likened it to penicillin, the wonder-drug antibiotic crippled by overuse. 'Glyphosate is the world’s greatest herbicide. It’s a once-in-a-hundred-year discovery,' he said, and the new crops could render it obsolete. Powles isn’t very optimistic that modern farming will cure itself of what he calls its herbicide-only syndrome. 'There will likely be a glyphosate train wreck before change occurs in the United States,' he said. But Adam Davis struck a different note. Especially in the southern United States, where farmers have been hit especially hard by superweeds, many farmers are already seeking out information on integrated weed management, said Davis. 'They’re not doing this because it’s groovy or green,' he said. 'They’re doing it because they’re running out of chemical options. The weeds have forced their hands, and will increasingly do so across the globe.'"
New Generation of GM Crops Puts Agriculture in a ‘Crisis Situation’
Wired, 25 September 2014

"For the past few years, folks in Pennsylvania have heard reports from Midwestern states of continuous corn growers struggling to control populations of western corn rootworms that developed resistance to some Bt corn varieties. Thus far, this problem has occurred elsewhere, with the closest fields with suspected resistance found in central Michigan and New York north of Ithaca. Unfortunately, this problem may now have found a home in Pennsylvania. Last week near Belleville (Mifflin County), we explored three fields that were heavily damaged by western corn rootworms. The fields had many lodged and goose-necking plants, and the root ratings conducted showed that rootworms had removed more than 2 to 2.5 nodes of roots (on a 3-point scale) from many of the plants. Further, these fields hosted very large populations of adult beetles, which, of course, a few weeks earlier had been larvae feeding happily on the roots. These beetles had fed heavily upon leaves and had decimated silks on nearly all the ears. There were three corn varieties planted in these fields, two that expressed the YieldGard rootworm trait (Cry3Bb1 toxin) and one expressing one of the Agrisure rootworm trait (mCry3A toxin). Gene checks on the plants confirmed they were producing the appropriate rootworm-targeting toxins. Most importantly, all of these features are identical to those of fields in the Midwest where resistance to Bt by rootworm populations has been confirmed by university entomologists. At this point, the fields in Pennsylvania are suspected to have resistant populations of rootworm beetles, but verification of this suspicion will occur over the coming months via work with offspring of the beetles collected from those fields. The main goal of raising the issue here is to emphasize that this problem can indeed occur in Pennsylvania and that these fields in Mifflin County are unlikely to be alone. We encourage growers, consultants, and other agricultural professionals to be aware of the possibility of encountering this problem in your part of the state, and know the warning signs detailed above. Recall that this is a problem for continuous corn; many of our dairies are at risk if they plant corn in the same fields year after year."
Suspected Bt corn rootworm resistance in Pennsylvania
AG Professional, 12 August 2014

"Genetically modified corn seeds are no longer protecting Brazilian farmers from voracious tropical bugs, increasing costs as producers turn to pesticides, a farm group said on Monday. Producers want four major manufacturers of so-called BT corn seeds to reimburse them for the cost of spraying up to three coats of pesticides this year, said Ricardo Tomczyk, president of Aprosoja farm lobby in Mato Grosso state. 'The caterpillars should die if they eat the corn, but since they didn't die this year producers had to spend on average 120 reais ($54) per hectare ... at a time that corn prices are terrible,' he said. Large-scale farming in the bug-ridden tropics has always been a challenge, and now Brazil's government is concerned that planting the same crops repeatedly with the same seed technologies has left the agricultural superpower vulnerable to pest outbreaks and dependent on toxic chemicals. Experts in the United States have also warned about corn production prospects because of a growing bug resistance to genetically modified corn. Researchers in Iowa found significant damage from rootworms in corn fields last year. In Brazil, the main corn culprit is Spodoptera frugiperda, also known as the corn leafworm or southern grassworm. Seed companies say they warned Brazilian farmers to plant part of their corn fields with conventional seeds to prevent bugs from mutating and developing resistance to GMO seeds....Tomczyk, who also spoke for Brazilian farmers during a dispute over seed royalty payments to Monsanto that ended last year, said Aprosoja encouraged the planting of refuge areas. But he said the seed companies have not given clear instructions. 'There are barely any non-GMO seeds available ... it is very uncomfortable that the companies are blaming the farmers,' he said. Aprosoja hopes to reach a negotiated agreement with the seed companies, but if all else fails farmers may sue to get reparations for pesticide costs, he added."
Brazil farmers say GMO corn no longer resistant to pests
Reuters, 28 July 2014

"Farmers in important crop-growing states should consider the environmentally unfriendly practice of deeply tilling fields to fight a growing problem with invasive 'superweeds' that resist herbicides and choke crop yields, agricultural experts said this week. Resistance to glyphosate, the main ingredient in widely used Roundup herbicide, has reached the point that row crop farmers in the Midwest are struggling to contain an array of weeds, agronomists say. Extreme controls are needed to fight herbicide-resistant weeds in some areas, University of Missouri weed scientist Kevin Bradley said in a report to farmers. One particularly aggressive weed that can grow 1-2 inches a day is Palmer amaranth. 'Palmer amaranth is our No. 1 weed to watch in Missouri and the Midwest right now,' Bradley said. He said farmers facing extreme out-of-control weeds should try deep tillage, a practice that removes weeds but can also lead to soil erosion and other environmental concerns....Palmer amaranth is also 'exploding' across Kansas this year, according to Dallas Peterson, a weed specialist with Kansas State University. 'We have had numerous calls about poor control of Palmer amaranth with glyphosate this year,' he said. Weed resistance has grown as farmers have increased their use of glyphosate in conjunction with the Monsanto Co's introduction of an array of crops genetically altered to tolerate the herbicide."
U.S. Midwestern farmers fighting explosion of 'superweeds'
Reuters, 23 July 2014

"Farmers and agriculture scientists are alarmed by the destructive attack of bollworms this year that seem to have developed resistance against the genetically-modified (GM) cotton crop. The surprise comes especially when different species of bollworms, such as American, Pink and Spotted bollworm, were supposed to be eradicated after feasting on the GM Bt cotton crop. Instead, these destructive pests have attacked a major cotton growing belt in Southern Punjab, this year. Farmers fear instead of being eliminated, the bollworms developed resistance due to insufficient toxin levels in Bt cotton crop. ... According to experts in Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), pests have possibly started developing a resistance against Bt crops, since they were introduced in 2004-05. The genetically modified cotton seeds contain insufficient dose of toxins that killed pests and were also of poor quality."
Bollworms develop resistance against Bt cotton crop
Dawn, 14 July 2014

"Problems triggered by the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in corn, soybean, and cotton country continue to worsen. An industry source recently projected that 70 million acres are now infested with one or more glyphosate-resistant weed. The presence of glyphosate-resistant weeds forces farmers to add additional herbicides to their control programs, and apply herbicides more often and/or at higher rates. Costs have risen $25 to over $75 per acre. The primary response by the biotechnology-seed-pesticide industry has been to develop a second-generation of genetically engineered (GE), herbicide-tolerant crops that can tolerate direct applications of the phenoxy herbicides 2,4-D or dicamba, in addition to glyphosate, glufosinate, and the 'fop' family of grass herbicides."
Charles Benbrook - Will second-generation herbicide-tolerant crops dominate the weed management toolbox?
Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, June 30, 2014

"The first of a new generation of genetically modified crops is poised to win government approval in the United States, igniting a controversy that may continue for years, and foreshadowing the future of genetically modified crops. The agribusiness industry says the plants—soy and corn engineered to tolerate two herbicides, rather than one—are a safe, necessary tool to help farmers fight so-called superweeds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture appear to agree. However, many health and environmental groups say the crops represent yet another step on what they call a pesticide treadmill: an approach to farming that relies on ever-larger amounts of chemical use, threatening to create even more superweeds and flood America’s landscapes with potentially harmful compounds. Public comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft review of the crops will be accepted until June 30. As of now, both the EPA and USDA’s reviews favor approval. Their final decisions are expected later this summer....When Roundup Ready crops were first introduced in the 1990s, some scientists warned that weeds would eventually evolve tolerance to glyphosate: After all, any herbicide-hardy weed would have an enormous reproductive advantage. Monsanto said that wouldn’t happen. It did, sooner rather than later. Such weeds are now an enormous problem, infesting roughly 75 million acres of fields, an area roughly equivalent to the size of Arizona. Farmers have been sent scrambling for solutions, and products like Enlist and similar multiple herbicide-resistant crops developed by other companies are the agriculture industry’s solution.... Another of Dow’s soybean varieties, now being reviewed by the USDA, tolerates three herbicides; also in the regulatory pipeline are multiple herbicide-resistant crops from Monsanto and Syngenta, as well as crops that tolerate both herbicides and pesticides."
The Next Generation of GM Crops Has Arrived—And So Has the Controversy
Wired, 24 June 2014

"Last year, nearly 160 million corn and soybeans acres nationally were planted with genetically modified crops, nearly tripling since 2000, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a recent report. That's about 90 percent of all corn and soybean acres. Critics blame farmers for creating herbicide-resistant weeds by overusing herbicides such as glyphosate and failing to diversify the crops they plant, relying on products such as Roundup Ready corn and soybeans year after year. 'Even though we warned them, you understand the economics behind it,' said Robert Hartzler, an ISU professor of agronomy. 'The current system favors the growth of corn and soybeans,' prompting farmers to leave out rotations of other crops such as winter wheat that could disrupt weed resistance. 'To make a reasonable living, you need to farm large acres, and to farm large acres, you need to cover acres quickly and that involves herbicides. Glyphosate was the best herbicide around,' Hartzler said. 'You couldn't sit down at a blackboard and come up with a better rotation than we have for weeds to thrive in,' he said. Hartzler and other scientists say herbicide resistance in weeds was inevitable. 'You've heard of this guy called Chuck Darwin and evolution?' Owen said. 'If we use one single system, one tool to control a pest, Mother Nature will find a way around that tool,' said Brent Wilson, DuPont Pioneer technical services manager. 'That's just the law of nature. 'It's too bad that glyphosate is developing resistance, but it shouldn't surprise us,' Wilson said. 'We don't know of any herbicide that won't develop resistance over some time.' Hartzler, Owen and others are trying to determine whether Palmer amaranth, discovered in Iowa last year, is resistant to glyphosate. 'If I was a betting man, and I am, I'd say we've got glyphosate-resistant Palmer in Iowa,' Owen said. Hartzler believes the superweed is likely growing in more than five counties. The tiny seed spreads easily — by farm equipment that moves across state lines and fields, in cotton byproducts that are fed to dairy cows, even potentially by birds, experts say. The states around Iowa are already fighting glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, including Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. Waterhemp, a similar-looking but wimpier cousin of Palmer amaranth, is resistant to glyphosate and other herbicides in Iowa. 'At least 50 percent of fields in Iowa have waterhemp that's resistant to glyphosate. It's our No. 1 weed problem,' Hartzler said. It's difficult to distinguish between waterhemp and Palmer amaranth, both pigweeds, especially when they're small, he said. But Palmer amaranth is stronger and faster-growing. It can quickly overrun a soybean crop. Corn is tougher in a matchup. Waiting even a long weekend to kill Palmer amaranth can result in the plant getting too large to kill with a herbicide. The weed can grow 2 inches a day and needs to be sprayed when it's 4 to 6 inches in size. Add spring rains or wind to the equation, and farmers can quickly miss the window, Hartzler said. Already, U.S. farmers are being forced to use more herbicides to control waterhemp. 'We've already seen a big leap, and Palmer amaranth will increase it more,' he said. A Muscatine County farmer who discovered Palmer amaranth last fall decided to mow down part of a soybean field to control it. 'He knew if he tried to harvest it, the Palmer amaranth seed would get inside the combine, and it's nearly impossible to clean it out,' said Hartzler, who determined that weed wasn't yet resistant to glyphosate. 'He didn't want to spread it to other fields.'... The cost of using more herbicide, buying tillage equipment, even hiring workers to hand-weed fields, is driving some farmers out of business, he said. 'For a lot of farmers, there won't be a next year.' Farmers won't be able to keep up with global demand for their crops as the herbicide-resistant weeds spread and reduce yields. 'We're farming like we did 35 to 40 years ago,' he said. 'It's like using a rotary-dial phone' in a cellphone world."
'Superweeds' choke farms
Des Moines Register, 23 June 2014

"It remains to be seen how Pacific Seeds will handle widespread grower complaints about its popular Hyola 404RR [Roundup Ready] canola variety. Renowned for its high oil content, high-scoring plant vigour and excellent flowering uniformity, the proven performer has been a benchmark variety for a number of years, assisting Great Southern growers to clean up weedy paddocks while harvesting profitable yields. But this season, a batch of seed has caused havoc for a number of WA growers who planted the highly adapted variety only to find that it barely germinated - if at all. Now these growers are calling for compensation. While little is yet known about the reason for the seed's terrible performance, it has been alleged a botched batch of seed imported from the USA (after Australian seed stocks were sold out) could be to blame. Thousands of planted hectares have since been re-visited and re-sown by a number of growers but for some it was too late. Some individual growers planted up to 1500 hectares only to find it didn't germinate at all and others, whose agronomists heard about some of the seed's lack of performance, were able to return un-opened bags of seed to distributors and recommend replacement varieties just in time. Katanning growers Terry and Kallum Blake planted their Hyola 404RR seed into good moisture on May 15 after the variety yielded 1.47 tonnes a hectare with 43 per cent oil last season. By chance, the Blakes also planted Nuseed's GT-41 right alongside the Pacific Seeds variety which proved to be a good gauge of the germination problem. Kallum Blake said, at a rough guess, only 10 per cent of the planted Hyola 404RR seed (per square metre) had germinated in his paddocks."
Canola's growing pains
Farm Weekly (Australia), 6 June 2013

"Soybean remains the most prominent crop in Latin America, especially Brazil and Argentina. However, the crop may fail to generate billions of dollars in annual income and may cease to be competitive and attractive to farmers if there are new herbicides to combat the glyphosate-resistant superweeds. This alert comes from the Argentine private consultant Alberto Bianchi, an agronomist who has worked for Dupont. He claims that soy has passed out of the 'extreme simplicity for weed control' stage into a more complex stage, due to the 'repeated use of pretty much the same product': glyphosate. Thus according to him, in the last five years 'there has been a violent spread of a great many species of [resistant superweeds], often types that plague large expanses of Argentina'. Since before the introduction of RR soybeans (Roundup Ready, from Monsanto) and until about four years ago, Bianchi says 'one or two types of superweed were identified that were known (for being difficult to eliminate) and attracted the attention of the whole world.' But 'Now there is another group of threats' appearing in different regions of Argentina where the crop is cultivated, from the border with Bolivia to the south of Buenos Aires province, says the agronomist. The expert says that the emergence of superweeds that are 'very strong and resistant to glyphosate application' is seen in all regions, albeit with variations in type, and 'this is a serious problem.' 'Without euphemisms,' he said that today the situation is 'worse than before' the introduction of GM soybean resistant to glyphosate, as the elimination of superweeds was more complex. This is because, according to him, the fact that today 'the superweeds are stronger than before' and some 'are already resistant to herbicides that were used before,' which limits the range of possible products to use."
Soybean cultivation is no longer easy, says agronomist
Agrolink (Brazil), 5 June 2014

"DuPont Co. (DD), the maker of Pioneer genetically modified corn, was sued for $1 billion by an investment fund that claims company directors promoted herbicide-resistant crop traits knowing they didn’t work. The Ironworkers District Council of Philadelphia & Vicinity Retirement & Pension Plan contends that some past and present DuPont directors wasted corporate assets and fraudulently promoted a specific gene trait, known as GAT, in a Delaware Chancery Court lawsuit made public today. According to court papers, DuPont in 2002 took licenses from Monsanto Co. to use its Roundup Ready trait, which helps crops resist otherwise harmful effects of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. By 2005, DuPont decided to develop its own trait -- GAT.  DuPont 'with great fanfare' announced in 2006 that in 2009 it would begin selling GAT, which stands for glyphosate acetolactate synthase tolerance, with possible sales of $200 million a year, according to the complaint. GAT seeds are genetically altered to tolerate weedkillers known as ALS herbicides. Soon 'field trials of GAT were producing disappointing results' and DuPont 'continued to publicly hype GAT' and 'conceal the failure,' the fund said. In 2009, DuPont disclosed it was adding a Monsanto Co. (MON) genetic technology, used to make crops resistant to weedkillers, to its product because the combination helped boost crop yields. Monsanto sued and in August 2012 a federal jury in St. Louis awarded Monsanto $1 billion in damages."
DuPont Co. Sued for $1 Billion Over Genetic Technology
Bloomberg, 4 June 2014

"The main cause of the monarch butterfly's decline is the loss of milkweed — its food — in its U.S. breeding grounds, a new study has found. That all but confirms that the spread of genetically modified crops is indirectly killing the monarch. This past winter, the number of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico fell to its lowest since 1993, when records first started being kept, the World Wildlife Fund and Mexico's Environment Department reported in January. That report blamed the loss of milkweed owing to genetically modified crops and urban sprawl in the U.S. and illegal logging in the butterflies' Mexican wintering ground. Now, an analysis combining all the known data about monarch populations and the factors that influence them shows that the monarch's biggest threat is in the U.S., not Mexico. The leaves of the milkweed plant are the only place that monarchs lay their eggs and the only food that monarch butterfly caterpillars will eat. A large proportion of monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains breed in the U.S. corn belt, stretching from Kansas in the west to Ohio in the east, and south to north from Missouri to North Dakota. The new study led by Tyler Flockhart, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Guelph, showed that the number of milkweed plants in the U.S. corn belt, where most monarchs breed, has fallen 20 per cent over the past few decades. 'It's a massive number of milkweeds — about 1.5 billion milkweed plants,' he said. The study, published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology, shows this decline in milkweed is the main cause of the monarch's recent population decline, not deforestation in Mexico. If this milkweed loss continues, the study predicts, monarch populations will fall at least another 14 per cent and there is a five per cent chance they will be driven nearly to extinction over the next century . Study co-author Ryan Norris, a biology professor at the University of Guelph, said that 'likely the biggest cause of loss of milkweed is the adoption of genetically modified crops.' Farmers have been increasingly planting corn and soybeans resistant to herbicides, and then applying those herbicides liberally on their fields. That kills off plants between the rows of crops that aren't resistant, such as milkweed. That's been a big problem for the butterflies. Even now, 67 per cent of milkweed plants in the butterflies' breeding grounds are found in 'agriculture-intensive landscapes,' the study reported.... Flockhart said the study shows that a huge quantity of milkweed would need to be replanted in order for monarch butterfly populations to recover. He suggests taking advantage of roadsides for this purpose, and mowing the milkweed at strategic times to maximize their use by monarch butterflies, which prefer younger plants. Flockhart also wants the plant delisted as a noxious weed in areas where monarch's breed. In Ontario, milkweed was delisted on May 9. The study represented several years of work over the course of Flockhart's PhD studies at the University of Guelph. Flockhart designed the study and brought together all the data he could find about monarch butterflies, including information about their range and survival rates at various points in their life cycle. The researchers also tracked monarchs using chemical markers to learn more about their movements."
Monarch butterfly decline linked to spread of GM crops
CBC News, 4 June 2014

"Representatives of the international coalition No Patents on Seeds! from France, Germany and Spain have filed an opposition against a European patent held by Monsanto on conventionally bred tomatoes (EP1812575). The patent claims tomatoes with a natural resistance to a fungal disease called botrytis. The original tomatoes used for this patent came from the international gene bank in Gatersleben, Germany. It was already known that these plants had the desired resistance and they were simply crossed with other tomato plants. Monsanto then produced a cleverly worded patent in order to create the impression that genetic engineering had been used to produce the tomatoes and to make it look ‘inventive’..... According to patent law, 'essentially biological processes for the production of plants and animals' are excluded from patentability. On the other hand, the European Patent Office routinely grants patents on genetically engineered plants. Monsanto already holds several hundred of these controversial patents. However, in this case, the tomatoes were derived from normal crossing, as described in the patent. Furthermore, it is very unlikely that such tomatoes can be created by genetic engineering because resistance to botrytis seems to be based on the combinatorial effects of several genes within the genome of the tomatoes. The relevant gene sequences are not known in detail. Thus, a desired gene combination can be achieved by crossing whole genomes, but not by transferring single isolated DNA sequences."
Monsanto Slammed for ‘Fraudulent’ EU Patent on Non-GMO Tomatoes
Sustainable Pulse, 2 June 2014

"Bt Brinjal, introduced in the country by the government for its pest resistance, has severely been attacked by pests this season for which farmers are now forced to spray a lot of pesticides, farmers alleged. Seeds of the genetically modified (GM) vegetable variety, which is being permitted to be cultivated at farmers' level despite huge protest from the biodiversity experts and common people, were given to farmers on January 20 this year. The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), under an agreement with multinational seed giant Monsanto-Mahyco, developed Bt Brinjal after inserting Bt gene to nine local brinjal seed varieties. The BARI said the variety is resistant to pests and farmers do not need pesticides any more. The Institute got permission from the National Committee on Bio-safety (NCB) for a limited scale cultivation of Bt Brinjal in October last year. From January 22 this year, 20 farmers from Rangpur, Pabna, Jamalpur, Gazipur and Sherpur districts in the country were given Bt Brinjal seeds. Haidul Islam at Shaitail village under Telihati union at Sripur upazila under Gazipur district is one of these farmers. Visiting his brinjal field on Tuesday, the FE correspondent found 25-30 per cent of the plants dead and the rest were struggling for survival. Haidul Islam said:  'Agriculture officials told me that I am one of the 20 fortunate farmers who got Bt seeds. It will reduce cost for pesticide.' 'But the reality is pests have attacked my plants severely,' he said. 'Last year, I grew local varieties and made profit. This year Allah knows what will happen to me', he said. He informed the FE that his field now required more pesticides compared to that of last year. Another farmer of the same village Mojibur Rahman has the same experience. 'Primarily, the plants grew well, then the leaves were attacked first and later the plants were attacked severely by pests', he said. During visits to his fields on Tuesday, he told the FE that BARI officials suggested him to spray fungicide 'Bebistine' and pesticide 'Vertimec' to save the plants....Chairman of Bij Bistar Foundation and crop specialist Dr MA Sobhan told the FE that a team of his organisation visited the Bt Brinjal fields at Bhoroimari and Boktarpur village under Iswardi upazila in Pabna district last week. He said, 'We visited two fields where plants have been attacked by red and white fly, jab and other pests.' He said, 'It is natural. Bt Brinjal is resistant only to shoot borer, but nearly 37 kinds of pests attack brinjal. The genetic engineering might have made the brinjal variety further weak to other pest attacks.' However, the government approved Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh, but it has been banned in India and the Philippines amid massive protests from environmentalists, biodiversity experts and ordinary citizens there."
Pest-resistant Bt Brinjal comes under pest attack
Financial Express (Bangaldesh), 7 April 2014

"GMO seeds have not been shown to definitively increase yield potentials and 'in fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties.' A February 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture report declared what many scientists already knew: There are no significant differences in yields of GMO and non-GMO crops. When asked about the USDA report, the chief technology officer for Monsanto declared, 'American farmers are smart and wouldn't adapt a technology that didn't have tangible benefits.' Are the USDA and scientists around the world wrong in their conclusion about failure to yield? No. Agroeconomists have shown repeatedly that the best-yielding, most-affordable crop varieties, to 'feed the world', are those derived from conventional non-GMO hybrids (U.N Commission on Trade and Development)."
Ramon J. Seidler, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and retired senior scientist and team leader for the Environmental Protection Agency's biosafety program.
Scientists find multiple problems with GMOs
Mail Tribune, 13 April 2014

"One of agricultural biotechnology’s great success stories may become a cautionary tale of how short-sighted mismanagement can squander the benefits of genetic modification. After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn. Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop. The vulnerability of this corn could be disastrous for farmers and the environment. 'Unless management practices change, it’s only going to get worse,' said Aaron Gassmann, an Iowa State University entomologist and co-author of a March 17 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study describing rootworm resistance. 'There needs to be a fundamental change in how the technology is used.'.... Key to effective management, said the scientists, were refuges set aside and planted with non-Bt corn. Within these fields, rootworms would remain susceptible to the Bt toxin. By mating with any Bt-resistant worms that chanced to evolve in neighboring fields, they’d prevent resistance from building up in the gene pool. But the scientists’ own recommendations — an advisory panel convened in 2002 by the EPA suggested that a full 50 percent of each corn farmer’s fields be devoted to these non-Bt refuges — were resisted by seed companies and eventually the EPA itself, which set voluntary refuge guidelines at between 5 and 20 percent. Many farmers didn’t even follow those recommendations. Fast forward to 2009, when Gassmann responded to reports of extensive rootworm damage in Bt cornfields in northeast Iowa. Populations there had become resistant to one of the three Bt corn varieties. (Each variety produces a different type of Bt toxin.) He described that resistance in a 2011 study; around the same time, reports of rootworm-damaged Bt corn came in from parts of Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. These didn’t represent a single outbreak, but rather the emergence, again and again, of resistance. In the new paper, Gassmann describes further incidents of Bt resistance in other parts of Iowa. He also found rootworms resistant to a second variety of Bt corn. Moreover, being resistant to one variety heightened the chances of resistance to another. That means corn engineered to produce multiple Bt toxins — so-called stacked varieties — won’t do much to slow the evolution of rootworm resistance, as was originally hoped. Farmers likely won’t stop using Bt corn, as it’s still effective against other pests — but as rootworms become more resistant, said Gassmann, farmers will turn to insecticides, thus increasing their costs and losing the ecological benefits originally gained by using Bt corn. As entomologists concerned by rootworm resistance wrote to the EPA in 2012, 'When insecticides overlay transgenic technology, the economic and environmental advantages of rootworm-­protected corn quickly disappear.' Entomologist Bruce Tabashnik of the University of Arizona called Bt resistance 'an increasingly serious problem,' and said that refuge sizes need to be increased dramatically and immediately. He and other scientists have pushed the EPA to double current refuge requirements, but so far without success. 'Biotech companies have successfully lobbied EPA for major reductions in refuge requirements,' said Tabashnik. Entomologist Elson Shields of Cornell University agrees. 'Resistance was caused because the farmers did not plant the required refuges and the companies did not enforce the planting of refuges,' said Shields, who has written that 'a widespread increase in trait failure may be just around the corner.' In addition to increasing refuge sizes, farmers also need to vary the crops planted on their fields, rather than planting corn season after season, said Gassmann. Breaks in the corn cycle naturally disrupt rootworm populations, but the approach fell from favor as the high price of corn made continuous planting appealing. 'Continuous corn is the perfect habitat for rootworm,' said Gassmann. Shields also lamented the difficulty he and other academic scientists long experienced when trying to study Bt corn. Until 2010, after organized objections by entomologists at major agricultural universities forced seed companies to allow outside researchers to study Bt corn, the crop was largely off-limits. Had that not been the case, said Shields, resistance could have been detected even earlier, and perhaps stalled before it threatened to become such a problem. 'Once we had legal access, resistance was documented in a year,' Shields said. 'We were seeing failures earlier but were not allowed to test for resistance.'"
Voracious Worm Evolves to Eat Biotech Corn Engineered to Kill It
Wired, 17 March 2014

"The widespread planting of crops genetically engineered to produce insecticidal toxins derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) places intense selective pressure on pest populations to evolve resistance. Western corn rootworm is a key pest of maize, and in continuous maize fields it is often managed through planting of Bt maize. During 2009 and 2010, fields were identified in Iowa in which western corn rootworm imposed severe injury to maize producing Bt toxin Cry3Bb1. Subsequent bioassays revealed Cry3Bb1 resistance in these populations. Here, we report that, during 2011, injury to Bt maize in the field expanded to include mCry3A maize in addition to Cry3Bb1 maize and that laboratory analysis of western corn rootworm from these fields found resistance to Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A and cross-resistance between these toxins. Resistance to Bt maize has persisted in Iowa, with both the number of Bt fields identified with severe root injury and the ability western corn rootworm populations to survive on Cry3Bb1 maize increasing between 2009 and 2011. Additionally, Bt maize targeting western corn rootworm does not produce a high dose of Bt toxin, and the magnitude of resistance associated with feeding injury was less than that seen in a high-dose Bt crop. These first cases of resistance by western corn rootworm highlight the vulnerability of Bt maize to further evolution of resistance from this pest and, more broadly, point to the potential of insects to develop resistance rapidly when Bt crops do not achieve a high dose of Bt toxin."
Field-evolved resistance by western corn rootworm to multiple Bacillus thuringiensis toxins in transgenic maize
Aaron J. Gassmann, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1317179111
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

"... according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.... released online on Feb. 20.... GMO crops were planted on about 169 million acres (68 million hectares) in the U.S. in 2013, about half the total land used for crops, the report said. The seeds are patented and cost more than conventional seeds - the price of GMO soybean and corn seeds grew by about 50 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to the report. But the companies that sell them say they make weed and insect management easier for farmers and can help increase production. But in its report, the ERS researchers said over the first 15 years of commercial use, GMO seeds have not been shown to definitively increase yield potentials, and 'in fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties,' the ERS report states. Several researchers have found 'no significant differences' between the net returns to farmers who use GMO herbicide tolerant seeds and those who use non-GMO seeds, the report states..... insecticide use on corn farms was down to 0.02 pound per acre in 2010, down from 0.21 pound per acre in 1995, the report states. But while insecticide use has gone down, herbicide use on GMO corn is rising, the report states. Herbicide use on GMO corn increased from around 1.5 pounds per planted acre in 2001 to more than 2.0 pounds per planted acre in 2010. Herbicide use on non-GMO corn has remained relatively level during that same time frame, the ERS said. And the over reliance on glyphosate has translated to an increase in weed resistance, which makes crop production much harder. Glyphosate is the chief ingredient in Roundup herbicide sold by Monsanto, and its use has translated to the glyphosate resistance seen in 14 weed species and biotypes in the United States, according to ERS."
U.S. GMO crops show mix of benefits, concerns - USDA report
Reuters, 24 February 2014

"Genetically modified crop plantings fell in industrialized nations for the first time since the technology was commercialized in 1996, an industry report said. Plantings in those countries fell about 2 percent to 81 million hectares (200 million acres) last year as Canada sowed less modified canola and Australia cut back on cotton, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications said in a report today. 'Growth is plateauing as far as the major industrial countries are concerned,' said Clive James, the report’s author and founder of Ithica, New York-based ISAAA. The group is funded by governments, foundations and companies including Monsanto Co. (MON:US), the largest developer of biotech crops. 'The major trend is going to be in the developing countries, which for the second consecutive year planted more than industrial countries,' he said in an interview. The $15.6 billion modified-seed industry faces political opposition in the European Union while the U.S., its largest market, is almost saturated. In contrast, higher plantings in Brazil helped to lift the global total by 3 percent to a record 175.2 million hectares.... The decline in modified plantings in Canada was due to an 800,000-hectare reduction in canola as farmers rotated more conventional wheat into their fields, while lower overall cotton plantings in Australia reduced use of biotech varieties there, James said. Still, 96 percent of Canadian canola and more than 99 percent of Australian cotton were genetically modified, he said."
Modified Crop Plantings Fall in Industrialized Nations
Bloomberg, 13 February 2014

"Sometimes an old technology may be the best fit for your field. In recent years, that fact has been reinforced on much of Gary Sitzer’s soybean acreage. Sitzer, it turns out, hasn’t given up on conventional varieties. 'I farm in northeast Arkansas, on the western side of Poinsett County,' said Sitzer at the mid-January Cotton and Rice Conference in Tunica, Miss. 'It’s an old rice area.' At the beginning of his presentation Sitzer insisted he was for producer choice not against GMOs. 'I want everyone to know I’m strictly talking about non-GMO, or conventional, soybeans being a choice. I’m not here to denigrate Roundup Ready or LibertyLink or anyone’s GMO. It’s simply a choice -- and a lot of times I think it’s the best choice for a particular situation.'.... Many are familiar with the Arkansas verification program. 'That’s where the researchers’ data and recommendations are put it to work in an actual farmer’s field.' In 2012, there were four conventional soybean fields in the program along with 15 Roundup Ready or LibertyLink fields. That year, averaging everything together, 'the conventional varieties actually did better. So, there is top-end potential. In 2013, there was a big yield contest in Arkansas -- ‘Go for the Green.’ A conventional field was turned in for the contest, yield was certified from at least a five-acre block, and it yielded 84 bushels per acre.' Further evidence came from a Phillips County verification field where the farmer 'elected to use two varieties. One was UA4910, a conventional, as well as an Asgrow line. They both yielded the same. 'Does that tell you anything, really? Well, the Asgrow line is the same one that made 107 bushels in the ‘Race for 100’ contest in the state.'.... drills have changed a lot since Sitzer was back in high school. 'But it’s still about making a trench and covering up the seed. One of the things that got me interested in conventional beans was this: on marginal fields with a rough seed bed am I better off planting at a high seeding rate?' The best way to afford that is to use a university variety and keep your own seed, Sitzer suggested. 'That way, your cost is basically market price and $2 or $3 for cleaning, storage, bagging, insurance, whatever. So, in adverse conditions, I can plant up to a bushel-and-a-half, at times. That’s a big advantage: keep your own seed.'..... What are some of the advantages of conventional soybeans? 'I play with the numbers in many ways. Basically, the seed costs savings average about $50 to $55 per acre versus a normal seeding rate of a Roundup Ready with a seed treatment.' There are premiums available for conventionals. 'I have gotten them. Some years I do, some I don’t. I don’t plan for them. The beans go right into the market chain. Premiums vary. If you’re close to the river and you don’t mind storing them until after harvest, ADM has a premium market nearly every year. But you must store them. And I’m far enough away that the time value and transportation kind of eats into the bonus.' Saving seed 'is a big deal and provides flexibility, particularly with seeding rates. You can keep more seed than you think you’ll need. So, if I get into a replant situation, there can be enough seed to assure a good replanting of the same variety.'"
Considering conventional soybeans? Here’s some advice
Delta Farm Press, 11 February 2014

"Faltering under extreme weather and vanishing habitats, the yearly winter migration of monarch butterflies to a handful of forested Mexican mountains dwindled precipitously in December, continuing what scientists said was an increasingly alarming decline. The migrating population has become so small — perhaps 35 million, experts guess — that the prospects of its rebounding to levels seen even five years ago are diminishing. At worst, scientists said, a migration widely called one of the world’s great natural spectacles is in danger of effectively vanishing. The Mexican government and the World Wildlife Fund said at a news conference on Wednesday that the span of forest inhabited by the overwintering monarchs shrank last month to a bare 1.65 acres — the equivalent of about one and a quarter football fields. Not only was that a record low, but it was just 56 percent of last year’s total, which was itself a record low. At their peak in 1996, the monarchs occupied nearly 45 acres of forest.... The loss of habitat is a far more daunting problem, Dr. Taylor and Dr. Oberhauser said. Monarchs lay their eggs only on milkweed, and patches of the plant have rapidly disappeared from the Great Plains over the last decade. As corn prices have risen — spurred in part by a government mandate to add ethanol to gasoline — farmers have planted tens of millions of acres of idle land along the monarchs’ path that once provided both milkweed and nectar. At the same time, growers have switched en masse to crops that are genetically engineered to tolerate herbicides. The increased use of herbicides has all but wiped out milkweed that once sprouted between rows of corn and soybean. As a result, Dr. Taylor said, the monarchs must travel farther and use more energy to find places to lay their eggs. With their body fat depleted, the butterflies lay fewer eggs, or die before they have a chance to reproduce. The monarchs are but the most visible victims of the habitat loss, Dr. Oberhauser said. A wide variety of pollinators and other insects, including many that are beneficial to farmers, are also disappearing, she said, along with the predators that feed on them..... "
Migration of Monarch Butterflies Shrinks Again Under Inhospitable Conditions
New York Times, 29 January 2014

"The continuing spread, consequences and best ways to manage herbicide-resistant weeds were again key talking points of speakers at the annual Tri-State Soybean Forum. And hand-in-hand with such weeds is the need to protect herbicides that still work. The point was driven home during the presentation of Larry Steckel, University of Tennessee weed specialist. 'We did a survey in Tennessee last year and 60 percent of our [genetically modified glufosinate resistant] Liberty Link soybeans got nothing but Liberty on them,' during the Jan. 3 meeting in Dumas, Ark. University of Arkansas weed scientist Jason Norsworthy 'ran a similar survey here in Arkansas and found similar results. Folks, we’re going to run Liberty into the ground if that’s the case. We’ve got to use other modes of action if we’re going to protect it and keep it around for any length of time. We’ve got to control (resistant pigweeds) early and up-front and overlay residuals as best we can.'... Steckel provided several herbicide program evaluations. In the first scenario the producer has planted Roundup Ready 2 soybeans and has ALS-, DNA- and glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweeds. .... Steckel acknowledged the financial hit producers can take with the herbicides. 'I know I’m not the one writing the checks for these plans. I used to farm with my wife, Sandy, and remember writing checks for herbicides back in the early 1990s. It’s easier said than done. But in order to sustainably manage these weeds, particularly pigweed, we must put the investment in these residual herbicides.'... 'If you spray pigweed that’s too big with Liberty and burn it you can often come back 7 to 10 days later with another shot and control it. That isn’t the case with (the PPOs). I hate even mentioning that because from a resistance management standpoint spraying Liberty after Liberty is awful. But it is a fact and in some of these train-wreck fields that’s where we are.'... If Liberty had come out and we’d never seen Roundup, all would think it was an excellent herbicide. But compared to what Roundup used to do, 'Liberty is pretty finicky,' said Steckel. 'Relative humidity makes a big difference, how cold it is makes a big difference on how well it works.' Recently completed research also shows that the time of day or night producers choose to spray makes a big difference on how consistently Liberty will control pigweeds.'”
Resistant weeds continue devastating march through Mid-South farmland
Delta Farm Press, 27 January 2014
"During this year’s side-by-side trial program, Asgrow farmers followed the Roundup Ready PLUS™ Weed Management Solutions. The Roundup Ready PLUS platform offers weed management recommendations developed in conjunction with leading academics and industry partners, including the use of pre-emergence residual herbicides to provide multiple modes of action against problem weeds. ... Along with showcasing proven weed control and enhanced yields by Asgrow soybeans, these trials have helped to dispel the misconception that LibertyLink is easier to use than Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield technology, since successful weed control for both systems requires residual herbicides."
Side-by-side trials show heightened performance of Asgrow® Genuity® Roundup Ready 2 Yield® soybeans versus LibertyLink® system
Delta Farm Press, 17 January 2014
"Renowned weed scientist Steve Powles, having had to find solutions and work-arounds in resistant weed-infested crops in his native Australia, has tried to prepare American producers for their own burgeoning resistance problems. In 2005, just as glyphosate-resistant pigweeds began to tighten their grip on fields in the American South, Powles cautioned U.S. producers against continuing practices that would only spread resistance. 'There is something Australia is No. 1 in the world at: herbicide resistance. We know about this problem and have the dubious distinction of being tops. However, the United States is about to take the top spot away from us. My prediction is you will be crowned king of herbicide resistance within the next few years.' In summer 2013, Powles again visited the United States and his message took on a more urgent tone. Agronomic diversity is a must, he told Farm Press, if American producers are to head off massive cropland problems.... '....Two years ago, pigweed had become a real problem in the South. That has only spread farther afield. When I was visiting the Texas High Plains, they told me resistant pigweed wasn’t a problem in 2012. This year, though, it’s in as much as 50 percent of the fields. That’s just the exponential part of the curve, which states like Arkansas, Mississippi and Georgia have been through. Whereas, in the Midwest, the Corn Belt, the producers have had a different set of issues. I don’t want to overstate the situation, but on a bus ride from Chicago to Indianapolis — with many stops — you can really see a sprinkling of marestail and waterhemp through some 50 percent of the soybean crops. I’m prepared to claim that those weeds are glyphosate-resistant. Those aren’t just misses. I don’t remember seeing that several years ago.'
Advice from weed resistance expert: Try diversity
Delta Farm Press, 17 January 2014
"Producers across most of the southern U.S. have been dealing with resistant weeds for a decade or more. Resistant Palmer amaranth or pigweed, for example, has been documented in every single agricultural county in Arkansas. Tennessee now has six glyphosate-resistant weeds. Meanwhile, producers in Louisiana may not fight the evil pigweed in every county, but they have resistant johnsongrass — and like most southern producers, they have a plethora of other weeds with which to contend. Consequently, nearly every major agricultural company in America has promising new technologies on the horizon to help producers fight herbicide resistance. None, however, will be available in 2014.... Soybean producers aiming for maximum yields should use a preemergence herbicide, plant clean, and use an early postemergence residual herbicide three to four weeks later. 'New research reveals that producers will maximize yields if they maintain soybeans weed-free the first five weeks,' Stephenson says. 'That’s contrary to the traditional mindset of letting weeds get up and established before spraying them.' Stephenson’s research shows that if soybean fields are not kept clean, they essentially produce no yield. But if kept weed-free for one week, yields increase by 39 percent; two weeks clean increases yields by 70 percent; three weeks, 89 percent (or a loss of 11 percent of yield potential); four weeks, 97 percent. If kept weed-free for 5 weeks after emergence, yield potential increases to almost 100 percent. 'Soil residual herbicides can buy time and manage weeds to protect yields, regardless of whether producers are managing for herbicide resistant weeds,' Stephenson says. 'If properly activated, a preemergence residual herbicide applied at planting can control weeds to lessen yield loss due to early-season crop/weed competition.'.... Steckel warns producers to look now for atrazine failures in Palmer amaranth and to be vigilant identifying new species of resistance, such as Italian ryegrass. Producers can also use the time between harvest and year’s end to implement preventive measures. 'Resistance continues to spread across weed species,' Steckel says. 'Resistant marestail and pigweed are pretty much in every field.' Goosegrass is increasingly problematic and glyphosate-resistant Italian ryegrass also is spreading into Tennessee from surrounding states. In the fields where producers have resistance problems, their best bet is to start clean by tilling and then applying herbicide applications before planting cover crops."
Diversity helps soybean growers manage weeds and herbicide resistance
Delta Farm Press, 17 January 2014
"With the threat of a major glyphosate-resistant pigweed infestation lurking around the next corner, many anxious farmers are asking themselves, 'How much yield can I sacrifice for better weed control?' Jesse Flye, who farms with his brother, Logan White, and father, Marty White, near Jonesboro, Ark., has been trying to quantify this dilemma for the past two years, by comparing costs and net profits for LibertyLink soybeans versus Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans. They also grow LibertyLink cotton, Clearfield rice and conventional rice. Many growers, including Flye, have gone to the LibertyLink system because its companion herbicide, Liberty, does a better job of controlling pigweed than Roundup. But yields in LibertyLink soybeans haven’t caught up to yields in Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans. So, which is the better choice? In the first year of the study, on a 75-acre plot in 2012, Asgrow AG 4632 RR2Y yielded 69.2 bushels per acre for Flye, while the Halo 4.65 LibertyLink variety yielded 62 bushels, about a 7 bushel advantage for the Roundup Ready 2 Yield variety. 'In 2012, the Roundup Ready 2 Yield variety ended up being a little more costly for us because we missed our Valor and Gramoxone burndown application on part of the field, and we had to put down an extra shot of Flexstar,' Flye says. 'The Flexstar application is a $20 to $25 application. So, our Roundup side ended up being about $20 an acre more than the LibertyLink side in 2012.'”
Yield or weed control: What’s the trade-off?
Delta Farm Press, 17 January 2014
"For nearly a decade, cotton growers have been battling to save crops from the ravages of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. Though in many ways they are finally gaining the upper hand, an expert with the Weed Science Society of America says progress has come at a great cost. 'The current model simply isn’t sustainable,' says Stanley Culpepper, a professor in crop and soil science at the University of Georgia and member of WSSA. 'Growers have gone to war, and they are making progress from a weed management perspective, but not from an economic or environmental perspective. We need to figure out a way to get the same result far more cost effectively and in a way that better protects our natural resources.' ... Palmer amaranth became a huge problem in cotton after growers began to rely solely on glyphosate for weed control. After repeated and exclusive exposure to the chemical, resistant weeds began to appear. It was clear that growers would need to make significant changes in their weed control practices or lose their crops. Today integrated weed management programs that complement glyphosate with a variety of other weed control tools and techniques have become commonplace in cotton. Growers have added herbicides to their weed control programs that use a different mode of action than glyphosate. They also are using two approaches that may seem decidedly 'old school.'... More than 90 percent of cotton growers in Georgia are now hand-weeding a significant portion of their cotton crop, Culpepper says. They also are tilling more to keep Palmer amaranth at bay. Though the multifaceted approach is working, there are definite downsides. Additional herbicides, labor and fuel have tripled the cost of weed control in cotton and that means profit margins are declining. ... Scientists and growers are collaborating on new options. One of the latest involves the use of heavily planted winter rye as a cover crop for cotton. Once the rye is established, it is rolled down to create a thick, horizontal bed of mulch that can reduce Palmer amaranth infestations by as much as 70 to 90 percent....The impact of glyphosate resistance on cotton crops represents a cautionary tale for anyone relying on a single herbicide mode of action for weed control, scientists say. If you reach the resistance 'tipping point' in a crop, it can be very costly to turn back the tide."
Current weed control programs in cotton ‘not sustainable’
Delta Farm Press, 13 January 2014

"The United States is facing an epidemic of herbicide-resistant 'superweeds' that some activists and researchers are blaming on GMOs, an accusation rejected by industry giants. According to a recent study, the situation is such that American farmers are 'heading for a crisis'. Many scientists blame overuse of herbicides, prompted by seeds genetically modified to resist them. 'In parts of the country, weeds resistant to the world's most popular herbicide, glyphosate, now grow in the vast majority of soybean, cotton, and corn fields,' many of which were planted with seeds resistant to the weedkiller, said the study published in the journal Science in September. Earlier this month, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it was considering the release of new genetically-engineered seeds that are resistant to multiple herbicides. But 'weeds that can shrug off multiple other herbicides are also on the rise,' the study said. Nearly half (49%) of all US farmers said they had 'glyphosate resistant weeds' on their farms in 2012, according to the most recent review from agri-business market research firm Stratus. That's up from 34% of farmers in 2011..... [Charles] Benbrook [of Washington State University] Benbrook described a vicious cycle, saying 'resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on genetically-engineered crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25%. Many experts in the US are projecting that the approval of new multiple herbicide tolerant crops will lead to at least a 50% increase to the average application of herbicide,' he added."
US 'superweeds' epidemic implicates GMOs
News24, 13 January 2014

2013

"A plague of superweeds, created as a result of GM farming, has swamped 60million acres of American farmland, it has been revealed. A policy briefing issued by America’s Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep the weeds in check. The plants have developed as an unintended result of growing crops that have been genetically modified to withstand spraying with certain powerful weedkillers, such as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready, which is also known as glyphosate. The idea was that the fields could be repeatedly sprayed with these chemicals on the basis they would kill the weeds but allow food crops such as soya to thrive.  However, the reality is that the weeds have mutated to become immune to the chemicals with the result they can take over fields. Biotech companies have suggested the way to deal with the problem is to develop new strains of GM crop and switch to different, even more powerful, chemical weedkillers. The UCS study – ‘The Rise of Superweeds – and What to Do About It’ – suggests returning to more natural crops and weed control to defeat the problem. The US study said as many as 50per cent of US farmers surveyed report glyphosate-resistant weed infestations. In the south east of the country, more than 90per cent of cotton and soybean farmers are affected. To date, some 24 species of weeds have developed resistance, with the result farmers are using more chemical sprays than before the GM crops were planted. Some resistant weeds can grow eight feet tall and the tough stems damage farm equipment. Removing them by hand is the only way to get rid of them, which is expensive."
Revealed: How Frankenstein 'superweeds' have swamped 60 MILLION acres of US farmland - and can't be killed
Mail, 11 December 2013

"Herbicide-resistant weeds are becoming a more widespread problem in the United States. Although herbicide resistance has most commonly occurred in the south in cotton and soybeans, it is increasing in other regions as well. According to a team of agricultural researchers from Pennsylvania State University, University of New Hampshire and Montana State University, too much reliance on glyphosate-type herbicides for weed control on U.S. farms has created a dramatic increase in the number of genetically-resistant weeds. 'I’m deeply concerned when I see figures that herbicide use could double in the next decade,' said David Mortensen, professor of weed ecology at Penn State. 'During the period since the introduction of glyphosate-resistant crops, the number of weedy plant species that have evolved resistance to glyphosate has increased dramatically.' Mortensen said. This list includes many of the most problematic weed species, such as common ragweed, horseweed, johnsongrass and several of the most common pigweeds. According to the research team, despite company-sponsored research that indicated resistance would not occur, 21 different weed species have evolved resistance to several glyphosate herbicides, 75 percent of which have been documented since 2005. 'In practice, the problem of glyphosate resistance goes far beyond a species count,' Mortensen said. 'More important, perhaps, is the increase in acreage infested with glyphosate-resistant weeds'. A separate survey of thousands of U.S. farmers across 31 states conducted over three years by Stratus Agri-marketing, Inc., showed 49 percent of the farmers surveyed reporting glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm in 2012, up from 34 percent in 2011. The reported acreage infested with glyphosate-resistant weeds has risen from 32.6 million acres in 2010 to 40.7 million acres in 2011 and 61.2 million acres in 2012. According to the survey, 27 percent of the farms have more than one species of glyphosate-resistant weed. Marestail (horseweed) was the most commonly reported weed with glyphosate resistance, followed by Palmer amaranth....  Due to the increasing number of weeds resistant to current applications, new generations of seeds under development are being genetically modified to resist multiple herbicides. 'Specifically, several companies are actively developing crops that can resist glyphosate, 2,4-D and dicamba herbicides,' said Mortensen. (See the related Michigan State University Extension article 'Engineering crops with resistance to 2,4-D and dicamba.') 'What is [more] troubling is that 2,4-D and dicamba are older and less environmentally friendly [than glyphosate].' ....Egan said there are several problems with the treadmill response. First, weeds will eventually evolve combined resistance to dicamba, 2, 4-D and glyphosate herbicides..... The researchers said that in previous studies, integrated weed management had lowered herbicide use by as much as 94 percent while maintaining profit margins for the operations. 'Integrated weed management is really the path forward,' said Egan. 'We believe these methods can be implemented and we already have a lot to show that they’re effective and straight forward to incorporate.' The MSU Extension publication E2931, 'Integrated Weed Management – One Year’s Seeding…' provides information about weed lifecycles, rotation, tillage and other practices related to managing weeds without depending entirely on herbicides."
2,4-D and dicamba-resistant crops and their implications for susceptible non-target crops
Michigan State University, 7 November 2013

"Jimmy Brackman nearly always keeps a hoe in his pickup. So does his 89-year-old father, Tom. Tom does it by habit, having faced cantankerous weeds long before glyphosate and other herbicides came on the market. Jimmy does it in today’s never-ending battle against herbicide-resistant pigweed. 'In some soybean fields, there’s no way to control pigweed,' said Brackman, who farms near Bradley, Ark. 'Roundup is just not doing what it used to do.'.... Bob Scott, University of Arkansas Extension weed specialist, says most farmers 'are learning to live with resistant pigweed, but we haven’t gained a lot of ground. 'Glyphosate resistant pigweed is the most troublesome and costly weed in Arkansas soybean and cotton production. Even with best management practices and near perfect herbicide programs, the soil seed-bank can increase to near unmanageable levels. A single female pigweed plant is capable of producing over 1.5 million seed.' Scott says soil residual herbicides are needed for effective pigweed management in all systems. 'These herbicides require moisture for activation and without rainfall or irrigation after application, they are less effective and may allow weeds to become established. Early applications are more likely to receive rainfall in a timely manner than later season applications.' A good burndown program is the first step to good weed management in early spring. 'If pigweeds are present at planting time, Gramoxone Inteon or other paraquat herbicides are very effective to remove existing vegetation,' Scott says. 'Preemergence herbicides, such as Dual, Valor, Authority MTZ or one of the Valor containing premixes, such as Envive, may also be used.'"
Learning to live with resistant Palmer amaranth
Delta Farm Press, 7 November 2013

"On August 26, Joe Spencer an entomologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, and I traveled to Livingston and Kankakee counties and confirmed significant western corn rootworm larval injury in first-year cornfields that had been planted to Bt rootworm hybrids (VT Triple PRO RIB – expresses the Cry3Bb1 protein). The fields in question were brought to our attention by Bryan Johnston, Cabery Fertilizer, Cabery, Illinois. Bryan indicated that many first-year Bt cornfields in the area had severe root pruning and lodging. The fact that rotated corn is now showing susceptibility to rootworm damage, even when planted to certain Bt hybrids, is evidence that crop rotation in central and east central Illinois does not adequately confer a consistent level of root protection.... The density of western corn rootworm adults in both crops, along with the severe pruning and lodging, was additional evidence that the Bt hybrids (VT Triple PRO RIB) had failed to offer the necessary root protection."
Michael Gray - Severe Corn Rootworm Injury to Bt Hybrids in First-Year Corn Confirmed
The Bulletin: Pest Management and Crop Development Information for Illinois, 27 August 2013

"For the last handful of years, weed scientists at the University of Illinois have been studying some new weed-control technologies that are expected to be released soon. Among them: crops engineered to tolerate dicamba and 2,4-D. 'We’ve been looking at how they respond to the herbicides they’ve been engineered to resist,' says weed scientist Aaron Hager....While the most problematic resistant weed species in Arkansas is glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, a pigweed, the biggest problem in Illinois is resistant waterhemp. Even so, 'we’re finding more and more Palmer (in Illinois). In fact, this year we’re finding new populations of Palmer scattered around the state....'We assume these Palmer populations have moved into the state via seed transport from areas where the species is already well-established. What you have with Palmer is quite a bit of resistance, especially to glyphosate. Also, there is resistance to many of the ALS-inhibiting herbicides.'”
Weed resistance and new technologies
Farm Delta Press, 23 August 2013

"Palmer amaranth got the best of a lot of Tennessee farms this year. For the last couple of summers around Aug. 1, I have written an article assessing the weed control season. We had a lot more issues this year than in 2012. Horseweed was more of a problem due mostly to later emergence events that escaped early burndowns. Italian ryegrass was also more of an issue, and it appears some of the true glyphosate-resistant version of this weed has become established in Tennessee. Glyphosate-resistant goosegrass is becoming more prevalent, which means we will have to employ more clethodim-type products to control both those glyphosate-resistant grass species in years to come. The biggest weed issue in 2013 was, of course, glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth."
Larry Steckel - 4 reasons pigweeds won this year
Farm Delta Press, 1 August 2013

"Most growers in areas severely affected by glyphosate-resistant weeds realize the severity of the problem and that glyphosate-resistant weeds will be present for the foreseeable future. Control measures such as hand-weeding, which seemed extreme a few years ago, are now routinely utilized to manage glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. Growers are also becoming more educated on the importance of soil seedbanks and how these impact their weed management programs. One area of concern in glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth management is controlling this species on turnrows, field borders, and ditchbanks. Clean crop fields surrounded on turnrows and/or ditchbanks by glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth are common sights in areas where it is prevalent. Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth has also colonized fallow areas, road sides, and construction sites. When glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth in these areas is left uncontrolled, it produces seed which is often disseminated into adjacent fields. Managing glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth on turnrows and ditchbanks can be problematic. Often glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth in these areas is not dealt with until mid- to late-summer after weed control in the crop has concluded. However, by this time, the weeds are often large and difficult to control. The best way to avoid problems along turnrows and ditchbanks is to never let them get “grown up.” Small weeds on turnrows and ditchbanks are much easier to control than large ones. Unfortunately, few operations can afford to have people and equipment dedicated to managing turnrows and ditchbanks, so these areas are often low on the priority list. Some options are available to manage glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth along turnrows and ditchbanks. Unfortunately, none of these are foolproof. Turnrows and ditchbanks may be mowed or tilled to control glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. While these tactics are relatively effective, they must be performed repeatedly because they generally do not control all Palmer amaranth plants and those remaining will produce seed which can re-infest crop fields. Tillage, usually in the form of disking, is more effective than mowing for control of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth present at the time of the operation. However, disking will require multiple passes and is only effective on turnrows, and a disk is difficult to maneuver around pointed rows and power poles. A rotary mower is much easier to handle than a disk, but it will not kill glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, so the turnrow and/or ditchbank must be mowed repeatedly to avoid seed production."
Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth on turnrows and ditchbanks
Delta Farm Press, 20 July 2012

"Biotechnology alone will not solve their rootworm problems. But instead of shifting away from those corn hybrids, or from corn altogether, many are doubling down on insect-fighting technology, deploying more chemical pesticides than before. Companies like Syngenta or AMVAC Chemical that sell soil insecticides for use in corn fields are reporting huge increases in sales: 50 or even 100 percent over the past two years. This is a return to the old days, before biotech seeds came along, when farmers relied heavily on pesticides. For Dan Steiner, an independent crop consultant in northeastern Nebraska, it brings back bad memories. 'We used to get sick [from the chemicals],' he says. 'Because we'd always dig [in the soil] to see how the corn's coming along. We didn't wear the gloves and everything, and we'd kind of puke in the middle of the day. Well, I think we were low-dosing poison on ourselves!' For a while, biotechnology came to his rescue. Biotech companies such as Monsanto spent many millions of dollars creating and inserting genes that would make corn plants poisonous to the corn rootworm but harmless to other creatures. The first corn hybrids containing such a gene went on sale in 2003. They were hugely popular, especially in places like northeastern Nebraska, where the rootworm has been a major problem. Sales of soil insecticides fell. 'Ever since then, I'm like, hey, we feel good every spring!' says Steiner. But all along, scientists wondered how long the good times would last. Some argued that these genes — a gift of nature — were being misused. (For a longer explanation, read my post from two years ago.) Those inserted genes, derived from genes in a strain of the bacterial Bacillus thuringiensis, worked well for a while. In fact, the Bt genes remain a rock-solid defense against one pest, the European corn borer. In parts of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, though, farmers are running into increasing problems with corn rootworms. 'You never really know for sure, until that big rain event with the strong wind, and then the next morning the phone starts ringing [and people ask]: 'What's going on out there?' ' says Steiner. Entire hillsides of corn, with no support from their eaten-away roots, may be blown flat. Monsanto has downplayed such reports, blaming extraordinary circumstances. But in a half-dozen universities around the Midwest, scientists are now trying to figure out whether, in fact, the Bt genes have lost their power.... An identical experiment in Iowa, carried out more than a year ago, found corn rootworms resistant to the Cry 3Bb gene. Nobody knows how widely those insects have spread, but farmers aren't waiting to find out. Some are switching to other versions of biotech corn, containing anti-rootworm genes that do still work. Others are going back to pesticides. Steiner, the Nebraska crop consultant, usually argues for another strategy: Starve the rootworms, he tells his clients. Just switch that field to another crop. 'One rotation can do a lot of good,' he says. 'Go to beans, wheat, oats. It's the No. 1 right thing to do.' Insect experts say it's also likely to work better in the long run. Meinke, who's been studying the corn rootworm for decades, tells farmers that if they plant just corn, year after year, rootworms are likely to overwhelm any weapon someday. The problem, Meinke says, is that farmers are thinking about the money they can make today. 'I think economics are driving everything,' he says. 'Corn prices have been so high the last three years, everybody is trying to protect every kernel. People are just really going for it right now, to be as profitable as they can.' As a result, they may just keep growing corn, fighting rootworms with insecticides — and there's a possibility that those chemicals will eventually stop working, too."
As Biotech Seed Falters, Insecticide Use Surges In Corn Belt
NPR (Blog), 9 July 2013

"Herbicide use on corn, soybeans and cotton did fall in the early years of GE crop adoption, dropping by 42 million pounds (15 percent) between 1998 and 2001. But as weeds developed resistance to glyphosate, farmers applied more herbicides, and total herbicide use increased by 81.2 million pounds (26 percent) between 2001 and 2010.... Total 2,4-D use declined after glyphosate was widely adopted, but its use has increased since glyphosate- resistant crops became widespread, growing 90 percent between 2000 and 2012. 2,4-D application on corn could easily increase by nearly three-fifths within two years of 2,4-D-tolerant corn’s introduction. And if just a million dicamba-tolerant soybean acres are planted, it would increase dicamba use 17 times.  Reports of weeds developing glyphosate resistance are popping up in more and more states. In 2008, glyphosate-resistant waterhemp was reported in five states, but by 2012 it was reported in 12 states. Glyphosate- resistant Palmer amaranth was reported in eight states in 2008 but 17 by 2012. Resistant horseweed spread from 12 states in 2004 to 21 in 2012.... After herbicide resistance, the second most prevalent GE trait in corn and cotton is insect resistance. The most common variety contains a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) soil bacterium gene, in the tissue of the plant, designed to repel the European corn borer and several cotton bollworms. The amount of Bt toxin expressed in insect-resistant corn is actually 19 times the amount of conventional insecticide necessary to target the same pests by applying it to the surface of the plant. Yet, this 'plant-incorporated protectant' expressed in every cell of each Bt crop is not counted in the USDA and EPA measurements of total insecticide. Dr. Benbrook reports that stable declines in insecticide use from the introduction of Bt crops are now 'in jeopardy' as insects developed resistance to the biotech toxin... Biotech corn seeds already cost nearly $40 more per acre than non-GE seeds, and the cost of biotech corn seeds nearly tripled from $103 per 80,000 seeds in 1998 to $285 in 2013. Perhaps higher seed costs were justifiable when Roundup always worked, but now that glyphosate-resistant weeds have spread, the higher cost may not be worth it. A 2012 national BASF survey found that 73 percent of farmers surveyed faced reduced yields because of herbicide-resistant weed infestations. And resistance to multiple herbicides in waterhemp could eventually make soybean production an unviable option in parts of the Midwest. Farmers face significant costs from herbicide-resistant weeds from reduced yields and increased production costs to combat weed infestations. These costs can range from $12 to $50 an acre, or as much as $12,000 for an average sized corn or soybean farm or $28,000 for an  average cotton farm. (See Table 1.) In 2010, herbicide-resistant weeds cost farmers $17 an acre from reduced yields. In 2012, 92 percent of surveyed cotton farmers reported that their losses due to weed control were at least $50 per acre. In Tennessee, glyphosate-resistant horseweed has increased soybean farmers’ production costs by $12 per acre; and Georgia and Arkansas cotton producers have seen additional costs of $19 per acre due to glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. Since U.S. farmers have found herbicide-resistant weeds in their fields, they have changed farming methods to control them, resulting in higher weed-control costs and even a return to tillage and hand hoeing. In 2009, farmers in Georgia were forced to weed half of the state’s 1 million acres of cotton due to the spread of pigweed, costing $11 million."
Superweeds: How Biotech Crops Bolster the Pesticide Industry
Food & Water Watch, July 2013

"The World Food Prize committee’s got a bit of egg on its face—genetically engineered egg. They just awarded the World Food Prize to three scientists, including one from Syngenta and one from Monsanto, who invented genetic engineering because, they say, the technology increases crop yields and decreases pesticide use. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Monsanto and Syngenta are major sponsors of the World Food Prize, along with a third biotech giant, Dupont Pioneer.) Monsanto makes the same case on its website, saying, 'Since the advent of biotechnology, there have been a number of claims from anti-biotechnology activists that genetically modified (GM) crops don’t increase yields. Some have claimed that GM crops actually have lower yields than non-GM crops… GM crops generally have higher yields due to both breeding and biotechnology.' But that’s not actually the case. A new peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability examined those claims and found that conventional plant breeding, not genetic engineering, is responsible for yield increases in major U.S. crops. Additionally, GM crops, also known as genetically engineered (GE) crops, can’t even take credit for reductions in pesticide use. The study’s lead author, Jack Heinemann, is not an anti-biotechnology activist, as Monsanto might want you to believe. 'I’m a genetic engineer. But there is a different between being a genetic engineer and selling a product that is genetically engineered,' he states... Companies that make GE crops benefit from a relatively new law, passed in 1994, allowing for much stricter intellectual property rights on seeds. Previously, a company had the rights to sell its seed. A farmer could buy that seed and cross it with other seeds to produce locally adapted varieties. He or she could then save and replant those varieties. Now, the company can patent the genes inside the plant. It doesn’t matter if a farmer breeds Monsanto’s corn with a local variety and produces a brand new type of corn. If the resulting seeds have Monsanto’s patented gene in them, then Monsanto owns them. The farmer cannot save his own seeds. This means that seed companies now control the amount of biodiversity available to farmers. And the number of varieties they sell has been going down. For example, the study found that in 2005, farmers could choose from nearly 9,000 different varieties of corn. The majority (57 percent) were GE, but farmers still had over 3,000 non-GE varieties to pick from. By 2010, GE options had slightly expanded, but non-GE options plummeted by two thirds. Similar reductions in varieties sold were seen in soybeans and cotton, too. By 2010, only 17 percent of corn varieties, 10 percent of soybean varieties, and 15 percent of cotton varieties available in seed catalogues were non-GE. But these numbers make the U.S. seed supply look more biodiverse than it actually is. Within all of those thousands of corn varieties sold, one single variety, Reed Yellow Dent, makes up 47 percent of the gene pool used to create hybrid varieties. All in all, corn germplasm comes from just seven founding inbred lines. More than a third come from one of those seven, a line called B73."
Study: Monsanto GMO food claims probably false
Salon, 27 June 2013

"It is true that herbicide tolerant crops bring initial technical benefits. They bring simplifications to the management process, which are important and facilitate the work of the farmer. Just as it is true that [GM] insecticidal plants that kill caterpillars trying to chew its leaves allow temporary savings on insecticides and facilitate the control of certain insects. But this has only been shown to be true in the short term. In medium term, what has been observed is the opposite: it becomes necessary to use stronger and more toxic agrochemicals, with greater frequency and greater intensity, expanding the costs and reducing the profitability of crops. To give you an idea: according to press reports, this season, with the onslaught of [Helicoverpa or corn ear]worms that should be controlled by Bt crops, the cost of soybean production in Bahia went from USD100 to USD200 per hectare. For cotton, spending rose from USD 400 to USD 800 per hectare (Valor Econômico, 3.12.2013). According to press reports, farmers until 2012 used 70 ml of DuPont's Premio insecticide (the product most recommended and used in the region), with the expectation of killing 90% of the population of Helicoverpa caterpillars that should be killed on contact with Bt plants. In this harvest, even using 150 ml, they obtained results of only 70%. The losses in Bahia are estimated at USD 2 billion.... the first GM released in Brazil were resistant to Roundup, a herbicide based on glyphosate, which is classified by ANVISA to be of low toxicity. It is demonstrably associated with the occurrence of some types of cancer, reproductive problems and neurotoxicity, among other effects, but is classified as of low toxicity. But these no longer work well and will be replaced by GMOs currently under evaluation by CTNBio, which are tolerant to 2,4-D. And this is of high toxicity.... In the case of plant insecticides that kill caterpillars that attack their grains, roots, and leaves, something similar is happening. Nature is producing caterpillars that do not die when they eat plants that contain those toxins. The losses in this harvest led the government to decree a phytosanitary state emergency and authorize the import and application of new insecticides. One of them, emamectin benzoate, is condemned by ANVISA. It is a proven neurotoxic product, one which was not previously used in the country, but which now, thanks to transgenics, has become incorporated into the technological packages of Brazilian agribusiness. Anyway, this question is very broad and could be discussed for hours. Maybe in a very simplified way, we can only say that the transgenics are changing for the worse the reality of Brazilian agriculture."
Transgenics are changing for the worse the Brazilian agricultural reality
Special interview with Leonardo Melgarejo - representative of the Ministry of Agrarian Development at Brazils GMO regulator, CTNBio
Instituto Humanitas Unisinos (Brazil), 3 June 2013

"Over the past 15 years, farmers around the world have planted ever larger tracts of genetically engineered crops. According to the USDA, in 2012 more than 93 percent of soy planted was 'herbicide tolerant,' engineered to withstand herbicides (sold by the same companies who patent and sell the seeds). Likewise, 73 percent of all corn now is also genetically modified to withstand chemicals produced to kill competing weeds. One of the main arguments behind creating these engineered crops is that farmers then need to use less herbicide and pesticide. This makes farms more eco-friendly, say proponents of genetically modified (GM) crops, and GM seeds also allow farmers to spend less on 'inputs' (chemicals), thereby making a greater profit. But a new study released by Food & Water Watch yesterday finds the goal of reduced chemical use has not panned out as planned. In fact, according to the USDA and EPA data used in the report, the quick adoption of genetically engineered crops by farmers has increased herbicide use over the past 9 years in the U.S. The report follows on the heels of another such study by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook just last year."
GMO Crops Mean More Herbicide, Not Less
Forbes, 2 July 2013

"New research shows there is no increase in yields between genetically modified crops and conventional systems. The report published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability also claims GM crops are associated with higher pesticide usage. The study looked at 50 years of yield data with corn, canola and cotton from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation database. Professor Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand compared GM crops in the United States with the non GM varieties in Europe. 'Up until 1985 US (corn) yields were significantly higher that western European yields. But since 1985, Western Europe has had higher yields and the trend line drawn for 50 years shows a much steeper incline for Western Europe.' The Birchip Cropping Group research new crop varieties for farmers in north west Victoria. Research Agronomist with BCG, Simon Craig was not surprised by the data but says there are various reasons farmers choose to plant GM. Mr Craig says yield is not as important as weeds when deciding to plant GM varieties. 'The weed spectrum that is present in the paddock will determine what herbicide group of canola variety the farmer should grow,' he said."
Study: no yield advantage with GM crops
ABC (Australia), 24 June 2013

"Farmers in the United States and Canada who use genetically modified (GM) seeds have lower crop yields and use more chemicals than Western European farmers who grow non-GM crops, according to New Zealand research. The University of Canterbury study, which analyzed data on agricultural productivity in North America and Western Europe over the last 50 years, could help avoid food poverty. The two regions made good comparisons because they were highly similar in their crop types, latitude, and access to biotechnology, mechanization and farmer education, study leader Professor Jack Heinemann said Wednesday. 'We found that the combination of non-GM seed and management practices used by Western Europe is increasing corn yields faster than the use of the GM-led packages chosen by the U.S.,' he said in a statement. 'Our research showed rapeseed (canola) yields increasing faster in Europe without GM than in the GM-led package chosen by Canada and decreasing chemical herbicide and even larger declines in insecticide use without sacrificing yield gains, while chemical herbicide use in the U.S. has increased with GM seed.' Europe had learned to grow more food per hectare and use fewer chemicals, while the North American choice of biotechnology was causing it to fall behind Europe in productivity and sustainability. 'We found that U.S. yield in non-GM wheat is also falling further behind Europe, demonstrating that American choices in biotechnology penalize both GM and non-GM crop types relative to Europe,' said Heinemann. The findings suggested that Europe had a superior combination of seed and crop management technology and was better suited to withstand weather variations."
North American crops failing with reliance on GM biotechnologies: Study
Xinhua, 19 June 2013

"University of Canterbury (UC) researchers have found that the biotechnologies used in north American staple crop production are lowering yields and increasing pesticide use compared to western Europe..... The findings have been published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. 'We found that the combination of non-GM seed and management practices used by western Europe is increasing corn yields faster than the use of the GM-led package chosen by the US. Our research showed rapeseed (canola) yields increasing faster in Europe without GM than in the GM-led package chosen by Canada and decreasing chemical herbicide and even larger declines in insecticide use without sacrificing yield gains, while chemical herbicide use in the US has increased with GM seed. Europe has learned to grow more food per hectare and use fewer chemicals in the process. The American choices in biotechnology are causing it to fall behind Europe in productivity and sustainability....'"
GM a failing biotechnology in modern agro-ecosystems
University of Canterbury press release, 18 Jun 2013

"Maize, rapeseed (Brassica napus L., canola), soybean and cotton yield data were obtained from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) FAOSTAT database for the United States, Canada and the total group Western Europe (Austria, Belgium-Luxembourg, France, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland). The FAO began reporting statistics in 1961 and was current to 2010 at time of writing (2011 for wheat). For 2011 and 2012, additional yield statistics and projections were obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Canadian Canola Council and the Monitoring Agricultural Resources (MARS) Unit of the European Commission Joint Research Centre. Using R version 2.12.2 (R Development Core Team 2012), we conducted an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) to test whether the yield differed significantly among years, location (Europe or the United States), percentage of GM used or any of the interactions.... First, we consider whether the biotechnology chosen by the American farmer is optimizing yield. Second, is the American agroecosystem achieving greater outcomes in lessening its impact on the environment, as might be indicated in reducing use of inputs such as pesticides? Third, we ask whether the social context created through policies on innovation and IP, and government subsidy programmes are delivering greater resilience. Finally, we consider whether prevailing policies are adequate to meet future human resource needs.... First the yields of maize and rapeseed were compared in North American and Western European (W. European) agroecosystems because these agroecosystems are of equal maturity and have similar access to sophisticated biotechnological and IP options, and are constrained by a similar latitude and operate in the same growing season (Licker et al. 2010). We mainly focused on where different choices in biotechnologies were made. A significant difference between the two agroecosystems is the virtual absence of GM crops in our group of six W. European countries. In contrast, the adoption of GM soybeans, maize, rapeseed and cotton in the North American agroecosystem has reached near saturation. According to the industry site GMO Compass (Anon 2011), the proportion of GM rapeseed reached 82% in the United States by 2007 and 95% in Canada by 2009. In the United States, GM maize reached a reported 88% by 2011, GM soybeans 94% by 2011 and GM cotton 94% by 2012 (USDA 2012a)..... Comparing W. Europe with the United States for the entire period 1961–2010 (Figure 1), the average yields were not significantly different (ANOVA: F1,98 ¼ 0.53; P ¼ 0.47). These results suggest that yield benefits (or limitations) over time are due to breeding and not GM, as reported by others (Gurian-Sherman 2009), becauseW. Europe has benefitted from the same, or marginally greater, yield increases without GM. Furthermore, the difference between the estimated yield potential and actual yield or ‘yield-gap’ appears to be uniformly smaller in W. Europe than in the US Midwest (Licker et al. 2010). Biotechnology choices in the form of breeding stock and/or management techniques used in Europe are as effective at maintaining yield as are germplasm/management combinations in the United States.... Although GM maize varieties have been in commercial production for most of the measured period since 1985, the linear regression of maize yield in W. Europe from 1985 to 2010 (y ¼ 1156x + 66699, R2 ¼ 0.75) again shows that the slope of increase per year is steeper in W. Europe than the United States (y ¼ 1053.4x + 67302, R2 ¼ 0.55).... Consistent with what is observed for maize, the yield gap appears to be increasing for Canada, the other earliest adopter of GM crops, for rapeseed (Table 1). The average yields of rapeseed for Canada have always been lower than W. Europe’s, by an average of 11,000 hg/ha between 1961 and 1985, and an even larger average difference of 17,300 hg/ha between 1986 and 2010, the period when Canada moved to GM and Europe did not.... there is less allowable on-farm capacity to contribute to innovation through breeding. This is due to the monopolization of the US seed sector (WorldBank 2007, Glenna and Cahoy 2009, Domina and Taylor 2010, Fitzgerald 2010, Kalaitzandonakes et al. 2010, NRC 2010). The seed market concentration is not because of GM crops, but as many major crops are now almost exclusively GM in the US agroecosystem, this transition to GM must be compatible with the forces that have been concentrating the seed market. This is evidenced in the failure of either the biological patent or the pre-1994 plant variety protections to concentrate the market in maize and soybeans anywhere near today’s levels. For example, in 1980, 70% of the area planted in soybeans used seeds developed by the public sector and by 1997, 70–90% of planted area used private sector seeds (Fernandez-Cornejo and Caswell 2006). By 2007, the area planted in public seeds fell to 0.5% (Shi et al. 2009). Along with the introduction of GM crops came the ability to apply dual restrictions of contract law through the use of the MTA and the patent, the most restrictive IP instrument in agriculture. As a result, seed prices are rising. The rise in prices is a function of the strict intellectual property control permitted for GM seeds and the resultant seed market concentration. ‘Relative to 1994, seed prices have risen by 140% while the index of other input prices has increased by 80%. The highest price increase in the United States has been in cotton’ (Zilberman et al. 2010).... The choice of GM-biotechnology packages in the US agroecosystem has been the stark contrast with W. European patterns of biotechnology use. Notwithstanding claims to the contrary (e.g. Derbyshire 2011), there is no evidence that GM biotechnology is superior to other biotechnologies (all ‘technological applications that use biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for a specific use’, IAASTD 2009) in its potential to supply calories (Heinemann 2009, IAASTD 2009, Jacobsen et al. 2013).... Despite the claims that GM might be needed to feed the world, we found no yield benefit when the United States was compared to W. Europe, other economically developed countries of the same latitude which do not grow GM crops. We found no benefit from the traits either. GM crops have maintained or increased US pesticide use relative to equally advanced competitors. The pattern and quantities unique to the use of GM-glyphosate-tolerant crops has been responsible for the selection of glyphosate-tolerant weeds, with estimates of resistant weeds on between 6 and 40 million hectares in the United States (Waltz 2010, Owen 2011, Benbrook 2012, Heap et al. 2013). The use of Bt crops is associated with the emergence of Bt resistance and by novel mechanisms in insect pests (Lu et al. 2010,Waltz 2010, Benbrook 2012, Zhang et al. 2012)."
Jack A. Heinemann , Melanie Massaro , Dorien S. Coray , Sarah Zanon Agapito-Tenfen& Jiajun Dale Wen
(2013): Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest
International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, DOI:10.1080/14735903.2013.806408

"More pest species are becoming resistant to the most popular type of genetically-modified, insect-repellent crops, but not in areas where farmers follow expert advice, a study said on Monday. The paper delves into a key aspect of so-called Bt corn and cotton -- plants that carry a gene to make them exude a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, which is toxic to insects. Publishing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, US and French researchers analysed the findings of 77 studies from eight countries on five continents that reported on data from field monitors. Of 13 major pest species examined, five were resistant by 2011, compared with only one in 2005, they found. The benchmark was resistance among more than 50 percent of insects in a location. Of the five species, three were cotton pests and two were corn pests. Three of the five cases of resistance were in the United States, which accounts for roughly half of Bt crop plantings, while the others were in South Africa and India. The authors said they picked up a case of early resistance, with less than 50 percent of insects, in yet another US cotton pest. And there were 'early warning' signs (one percent resistance or less) from four other cotton or corn pests in China, the United States and the Philippines. The scientists found big differences in the speed at which Bt resistance developed. In one case, it took just two years for the first signs to emerge; in others, the Bt crops remained as effective in 2011 as they were 15 years earlier. What made the difference was whether farmers set aside sufficient 'refuges' of land for non-BT crops, said the study's authors."
More pests 'resistant to GM crops': study
AFP, 10 June 2013

"In an article appearing in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology, authors Bruce Tabashnik from the University of Arizona and Fred Gould from North Carolina State University conclude the EPA should more than double the percentage of corn acres planted to mandated refuges to delay insect resistance, encourage integrated pest management, or IPM, and promote more sustainable crop protection.  To slow resistance in the western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera), a beetle that is one of the most economically important crop pests in the U.S., the EPA currently requires 20 percent of the total acreage being set aside as refuges for corn producing one Bt protein (Cry3Bb1), and a 5 percent refuge portion for corn that simultaneously produces two different Bt proteins.   However, the authors note that this adaptable pest has rapidly evolved resistance to Cry3Bb1 in some areas of the U.S. Corn Belt. For Bt corn to remain effective against rootworms, they recommend increasing refuge requirements to 50 percent for corn producing one Bt protein and 20 percent for corn producing two Bt proteins.  'Corn rootworms can cost U.S. farmers close to $1 billion each year. Bt corn has helped to reduce these costs and to decrease insecticide sprays, but evolution of resistance by the pests can diminish or even eliminate these benefits,' said Tabashnik, who heads the department of entomology in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  'To delay pest resistance and sustain the benefits of Bt corn, we recommend planting more corn that does not produce Bt toxins active against rootworms. This refuge strategy allows the susceptible pests to survive and has worked to slow resistance of other pests to Bt crops.' 'Most of the corn seed currently produced in the U.S. is transgenic and includes genes for insect control,' said Gould. 'Enlarging refuges will require more seed without corn rootworm control genes. This shift in production will take time, so this process should begin immediately.' In addition to increased refuge sizes, the authors write that the best way to postpone resistance is to use IPM, in which Bt corn is combined with other control tactics such as crop rotation and judicious use of insecticide sprays. 'We advocate greater use of integrated pest management, which is a common sense approach based on the best available combination of tactics,' Tabashnik said. 'The goals are to limit pest damage, maximize farmer profits and preserve environmental quality. Maintaining the effectiveness of Bt toxins can help us achieve these goals.' 'We're seeing the early signs of rootworm resistance to Bt corn, which fit predictions from evolutionary theory and experiments in the lab and greenhouse,' he added.  The paper indicates rootworm resistance to Bt corn was first detected in 2009 in Iowa; six years after sales of rootworm-killing Bt corn began in the U.S. and only one year after this type of Bt corn was first planted on more than 25 million acres.  According to Tabashnik, Cry3Bb1 is effective enough to be economically useful, but not effective enough to meet the so-called high dose standard, the ability to kill at least 99.99 percent of susceptible pests and also nearly all of the hybrid pests that are produced when resistant pests mate with susceptible pests.  'When Bt crops meet the high dose standard, resistant individuals are extremely rare, and smaller refuges work fine, because you might have one resistant insect in a million. In this case, a 20 percent refuge provides enough susceptible individuals to dilute that rare resistance.' But plants with Cry3Bb1 allow survival of 1 to 6 percent of pests, which is expected to quickly select for resistance.  'A single farm can have millions of these beetles,' Tabashnik explained. 'If 1 to 6 percent survive on Bt corn, you have tens of thousands of potentially resistant insects and the refuge needs to be much bigger.'  Tabashnik's research has shown that in Arizona, Bt cotton meets the high dose standard against pink bollworm and the small refuge strategy has prevented resistance for more than a decade. On the other hand, Tabashnik pointed to a case in Puerto Rico, where adequate refuges were not planted. Within a few years, the pests evolved resistance and devoured the Bt corn plants. The biotechnology companies voluntary stopped selling Bt corn seed there, but five years later, the insects remain resistant to the toxin. Although biotech companies recently starting selling some varieties of Bt corn that produce combinations of Bt toxins, Tabashnik said, the resistance to one toxin still raises concerns.  'You can think of the multi-Bt toxin approach as a pyramid: The base has to be stable. If one of your building blocks, which is susceptibility to Cry3Bb1, is crumbling, you have a problem. Resistance to any one toxin jeopardizes the effectiveness of the whole system.'"
Bigger Refuges Needed to Delay Pest Resistance to Biotech Corn
University of Arizona News, 4 June 2012

"A Kansas farmer has sued seed giant Monsanto over last week's discovery of genetically engineered experimental wheat in an 80-acre field in Oregon, claiming the company's gross negligence hurt U.S. growers by driving down wheat prices and causing some international markets to suspend certain imports. The federal civil lawsuit, filed Monday by Ernest Barnes, who farms 1,000 acres near Elkhart in southwest Kansas, seeks unspecified damages to be determined at trial. U.S. Agriculture Department officials said last Wednesday that the modified wheat was the same strain as one designed by Monsanto to be herbicide resistant that was tested in Oregon and several other states through 2005 but never approved. The USDA has said the Oregon wheat is safe to eat and there is no evidence that modified wheat entered the marketplace....No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming. Many countries will not accept imports of genetically modified foods, and the United States exports about half of its wheat crop. Since the announcement, Japan — one of the largest export markets for U.S. wheat growers — suspended some imports. South Korea said it would increase its inspections of U.S. wheat imports. Barnes referred all calls to his attorneys. One of them, Warren Burns, said that the scope of the damage is potentially in the hundreds of millions of dollars. He said the lawsuit seeks to make sure their client is compensated for his losses.... The company said its process for closing out its original wheat development program was rigorous, government-directed, well-documented and audited. It noted wheat seed, on average, is viable for only one or two years in the soil. Monsanto also contended that, given the care undertaken to prevent contamination, no legal liability exists and it will present a vigorous defense. The modified wheat was discovered when field workers at an eastern Oregon wheat farm were clearing acres and came across a patch of wheat that didn't belong. The workers sprayed it, but the wheat wouldn't die. It was then sent to a university lab in early May. Tests at Oregon State University confirmed that the plants were a strain developed by Monsanto to resist its Roundup Ready herbicides that were tested between 1998 and 2005. At the time, Monsanto had applied to the USDA for permission to develop the engineered wheat, but the company later withdrew that. The Agriculture Department has said that during that seven-year period, it authorized more than 100 field tests for the herbicide-resistant seed. Tests were conducted in in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming. Burns said the case 'looks and smells' like the litigation that arose from the contamination of the U.S. rice crop from genetically modified rice. Bayer CropScience, a German conglomerate, announced in 2011 that it would pay up to $750 million to settle claims, including those from farmers who say they had to plant different crops and made less money from them."
Monsanto sued over genetically modified wheat
Associated Press, 4 June 2013

"An agribusiness in western Victoria is selling genetically modified canola seed for half price because demand is limited. Across Australia, 8 per cent of canola plantings are GM varieties. Elders agronomist Jamie Ball says farmers are reluctant to sow GM canola because they're concerned it will increase the number of herbicide resistant weeds on their farms. 'A chap I was talking to was umming and arghing and could have easily opted for a GM variety. He chose not to, simply because he didn't want the selection pressure, and didn't want all the hassles with hygiene and access to delivery points,' he said. 'You definitely see a purposeful movement away from GM.' Plant breeder Monsanto says GM canola production is increasing year-on-year."
Slow take-up of GM canola
ABC (Australia), 16 May 2013

"More than one million acres of Canadian farmland have glyphosate-resistant weeds growing on them, including 43,000 in Manitoba, according to an online survey of 2,028 farmers conducted by Stratus Agri-Marketing Inc. based in Guelph, Ont. The shockingly high Canadian numbers met with skepticism from some experts who suggest farmers might be mistaking hard-to-kill weeds with glyphosate resistance. But others say the farmers are probably right. Even though there hasn’t been a single documented case of a glyphosate-resistant weed in Manitoba, the 281 Manitoba farmers surveyed said they believe there’s glyphosate-resistant kochia on 23,000 acres in this province. 'That’s probably an underestimate,' Hugh Beckie, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research scientist based in Saskatoon who specializes in herbicide-resistant weeds, said in an interview May 3. 'The farmers are pretty perceptive when it comes to their suspicions about resistance. They’re usually on the mark,' he said noting it’s already prevalent in provinces west of Manitoba. 'Why wouldn’t it be in Manitoba, especially in the southwest where kochia is such a prevalent weed?'... The development of glyphosate-resistant weeds is relatively new to Canada. The first documented case was giant ragweed in Ontario in 2009 followed by Canada fleabane in 2011, also in Ontario. Kochia seed collected in Alberta in 2011 was confirmed to be glyphosate resistant in 2012. Later in the year it was confirmed in Saskatchewan. The 401 Alberta farmers surveyed said they had 126,000 acres infected with glyphosate-resistant kochia. The 821 farmers surveyed in Saskatchewan said 502,000 acres are infested."
A million acres of glyphosate-resistant weeds in Canada?
Manitoba Co-operator, 7 May 2013

"There have been dramatic changes in the transgenic composition of GE corn and soybeans over the last five years, coupled with a substantial increase in reliance on pesticides and Bt toxins. Compared to the first five years of commercial use (1996-2000), today’s GE corn and soybeans in the U.S. require: * About twice as much herbicide per acre, with glyphosate/Roundup accounting for essentially all the growth; * In corn, two to six Bt toxins to deal with European corn borer and the corn rootworm complex;  * Delayed release, systemic seed treatments including at least two insecticides and two fungicides, one of which is a nicotinyl implicated in honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder; * A return to corn soil insecticide use as a component of Bt-gene, resistance-management programs (eroding a portion of the reduction in insecticide use brought about by Bt corn); * Significant and historically unprecedented increases in fungicide use on corn (11 percent of crop acres were treated in latest USDA pesticide use survey [2010], no more than 1 percent was treated previously); and *Approval and commercial planting in the U.S. of the first GE crop that will be consumed in significant quantities by humans in a largely unprocessed form – Bt and RR sweetcorn."
Dr Charles Benbrook - GE Crop Risk Assessment Challenges: An Overview
Food Safety News, 6 May 2013

"Since he started farming on his own in 1954, Waller says, he’s been involved in various enterprises in addition to cotton. 'I’ve tried almost everything — poultry, cattle, hogs — but cotton was always the backbone of the operation. Some of my land has never had anything on it but cotton.'"
Don Waller: For 40 years he’s grown only cotton
Delta Farm Press, 17 April 2013

"The Nature Biotechnology journal published an interesting study this February. It found that several varieties of GE seeds actually reduce yields when compared to conventional counterparts. Researchers analyzed 20 years of data from test plots to reach their findings. If this holds true more broadly, it undermines the biggest case for GE technology. The New York Times' Mark Bittman asked a fascinating question in a recent Op Ed: Why does genetic engineering need protection? Maybe because it's not that awesome. Bittman points out that in 20 years of applied genetic engineering to crop science, there've only been two real successes: crops resistant to Roundup and crops that produce their own insecticide. The first has already failed and the second appears to be headed down the same path. Other than that, it's pretty mediocre. Might we be facing a case of tremendous risk with little real return on a massive scale? If the world wakes up one day and realizes that Monsanto's emperor has no clothes, what will its shares be worth then?"
Is Monsanto Worthless?
Motley Fool, 8 April 2013

"Gray also said that in 2013, he anticipates a sharp increase in the use of planting-time soil insecticides with corn rootworm Bt hybrids. On average, nearly half the producers indicated they intend to use both a soil applied (at-planting) insecticide with their corn rootworm Bt hybrid this spring. 'From my perspective, the escalation of soil insecticide use along with corn rootworm Bt hybrids has been fueled primarily by concerns about Bt resistance and high commodity prices,' he said. Producers who intend to use a soil insecticide with their corn rootworm Bt hybrid this spring offered several reasons for this approach, with concerns over secondary insect infestations and Bt resistance as the top issues cited. However, more than a quarter of the producers acknowledged that they view the use of a soil insecticide with a corn rootworm Bt hybrid as 'cheap insurance.' Gray said that more research is needed on the potential insect resistance management benefits of a soil insecticide used in combination with a Bt hybrid. 'I think it is worth mentioning that one of the key benefits touted concerning the use of Bt hybrids for corn rootworm management was the reduction of soil insecticide use,' he said. 'It is a bit surprising that 10 years after the first Bt hybrids entered the marketplace for corn rootworms in 2003 that a heightened interest in the use of soil insecticides has surfaced in such a significant fashion.'
Expect more soil insecticide used with Bt hybrids
AgProfessional, 1 April 2013

"1. The size of the Mexican overwintering population of monarch butterflies has decreased over the last decade. Approximately half of these butterflies come from the U.S. Midwest where larvae feed on common milkweed. There has been a large decline in milkweed in agricultural fields in the Midwest over the last decade. This loss is coincident with the increased use of glyphosate herbicide in conjunction with increased planting of genetically modified (GM) glyphosate-tolerant corn (maize) and soybeans (soya). 2. We investigate whether the decline in the size of the overwintering population can be attributed to a decline in monarch production owing to a loss of milkweeds in agricultural fields in the Midwest. We estimate Midwest annual monarch production using data on the number of monarch eggs per milkweed plant for milkweeds in different habitats, the density of milkweeds in different habitats, and the area occupied by those habitats on the landscape. 3. We estimate that there has been a 58% decline in milkweeds on the Midwest landscape and an 81% decline in monarch production in the Midwest from 1999 to 2010. Monarch production in the Midwest each year was positively correlated with the size of the subsequent overwintering population in Mexico. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that a loss of agricultural milkweeds is a major contributor to the decline in the monarch population. 4. The smaller monarch population size that has become the norm will make the species more vulnerable to other conservation threats."
Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicide use: effect on the monarch butterfly population
JOHN M. PLEASANTS and KAREN S. OBERHAUSER
Insect Conservation and Diversity 6(2): 135–144

"In the late 1990s while on a visit to the USA I saw my first GM crop - herbicide tolerant soybeans. As a farmer it was of great interest to see the latest agricultural technology being made available to US farmers. I have been a regular visitor to the USA since then and have seen how GM crops have developed over the years, I have also visited other countries who are growing GM crops among them India and South Africa. On that first visit farmers were keen to try out these new crops. The herbicide tolerant crops were going to make weed control so easy with the crops ability to withstand the total herbicide 'Roundup' (Glyphosate) one sprayer pass at the right time with Roundup would mean job done. Much easier than the old system of walking the fields seeing which weeds were growing then deciding which herbicide to use - and often it meant more than one herbicide to kill all the different weeds. All that was needed now was the one herbicide and job done, what was not to like about this new technology? But on my visit in 2002 I started to hear farmers say that it was now taking several passes with Roundup to kill the weeds and that they were using it at higher concentrations in order to kill the weeds. On visits over the next few years I started to hear about weeds which had become resistant to the Round Up which meant that farmers had to add other herbicides to the sprayer tank in order to kill those weeds. Many were critical of the technology and they were using the same number and types of herbicides that you would use on a conventional no GM crop, such as residual herbicides, which remain active in the soil over a period of time. They were adding to tank mixes other herbicides in order to kill the weeds no longer being killed by Roundup and, over the years, the number of weeds not killed by Roundup has grown. .... When herbicide-tolerant crops were first introduced the promise was that they would mean less herbicide use and so have less environmental impact and lower cost to the farmer for weed control. But herbicide use is back to where it had been before GM crops were introduced, making them, in my opinion, 'not fit for purpose' as the saying goes, so much so that in 2011 on a visit to South Africa I was surprised to find herbicide tolerant crops being marketed to farmers in the Farmers Weekly as what I can only call a 'weed control system', in which the use of other herbicides in conjunction with Roundup was being promoted. Far removed from the USA marketing in the 90s as a simple 'one herbicide does all'.... Why do US farmers continue to grow GM crops if they are not fit for purpose? Two reasons. Unavailability of non GM seed, as most seed breeding is controlled by the GM companies. The second is fear, because the GM traits are patented so if a farmer has not paid the 'tech fee' for the right to grow GM crops and the crop is found to contain GM traits, it is deemed that the grower has stolen the technology and is using it illegally and they will be taken to court. It does not matter how the traits got there - mixed up seed sacks, wind blown pollen, seed growing which dropped from a previous crop. So even if you are growing what you think is a GM-free crop and it is found to have GM traits you are in trouble, it is far easier to continue to grow GM crops even if they are not fit for purpose any more. As a farmer I do not want to see GM crops grown in the UK or Europe because it will put farmers and the food chain in the hands of a few companies, intensifies farming and having seen them in a number of countries around the world they are not going to feed the world or make farmers more profit or give environmental benefits."
Michael Hart - My War Against GM Crops
Huffington Post, 24 March 2013

"Genetically engineered corn and soybeans make it easy for farmers to eradicate weeds, including the long-lived and unruly milkweed. But they might be putting the monarch butterfly in peril. The rapid spread of herbicide-resistant crops has coincided with -- and may explain -- the dramatic decline in monarch numbers that has troubled some naturalists over the past decade, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University. Between 1999 and 2010, the same period in which so-called GMO crops became the norm for farmers, the number of monarch eggs declined by an estimated 81 percent across the Midwest, the researchers say. That's because milkweed -- the host plant for the eggs and caterpillars produced by one of one of the most gaudy and widely recognized of all North American butterflies -- has nearly disappeared from farm fields, they found. It is one of the clearest examples yet of unintended consequences from the widespread use of genetically modified seeds, said John Pleasants, a monarch researcher from Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. 'When we put something out there, we don't know always what the consequences are,' he said. Pleasants and Karen Oberhauser, of the University of Minnesota, published their findings online last week in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity. 'It is quite an extraordinary paper,' said Chip Taylor, an insect ecologist at the University of Kansas and the director of research at Monarch Watch, a conservation group. He noted that Oberhauser and Pleasants were able to tie the loss of habitat to a decline in numbers across the country. But the evidence they present -- estimates of the number of milkweed plants across the Corn Belt and a decade's worth of butterfly egg counts by an army of volunteer citizens -- is indirect, say others. 'It does not resolve the debate,' said Leslie Ries, a University of Maryland professor who studies monarchs. The orange and black butterflies migrate every year to the mountains of Mexico, where they collect in fluttering clouds in trees, an extraordinary event that has inspired festivals and tourism. But for reasons that are not well understood, the number of butterflies that make it to Mexico -- half of which come from the Midwest -- has been on the decline. This year, according to a report released Thursday, the butterflies occupied seven acres of trees in their refuge west of Mexico City -- 28 percent less than last year and a fraction of the 45 acres they occupied in 1996, a peak year. Experts said last year's drought probably had a serious effect on the insects. Others say damage to the wintering grounds from logging and development are also playing a part, and that the number that make it to Mexico does not necessarily reflect the health of the species. But some scientists have for years wondered whether the use of genetically modified crops is affecting the spring and summer reproduction in this country. Earlier studies suggested that monarch caterpillars would die if they ate milkweed dusted with pollen from another kind of engineered seed known as BT corn. It contains a gene that produces a toxin that kills corn-eating pests. That theory was disproved, but it led scientists to take a hard look at milkweed plants in corn and soybean fields, said Pleasants. "Surprisingly, monarchs use those milkweeds more heavily than milkweed outside [farm fields]," he said. The butterflies lay nearly four times as many eggs on farm field plants as on those in pastures or on roadsides, the researchers said. More important, they also found "that milkweed in the fields was disappearing," he said. That's because more farmers are using a new kind of genetically modified seed developed by Monsanto, Roundup-ready corn and soybeans, that contain a gene allowing the plants to withstand Roundup, or glyphosate. That allows farmers to spray their fields without harming the crop.... Pleasants said he used data on the change in milkweed density in Iowa, and extrapolated those numbers to landscape use data across the Midwest. That showed an estimated 58 percent decline in milkweed plants throughout the Corn Belt, primarily on agricultural lands. Oberhauser supplied data she has been collecting for years through the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. Every week during the monarch breeding season, volunteers across the country go to the same patches of non-agricultural milkweed in their communities and count all the eggs they can find. That showed two things: Butterflies were not flocking to breed on plants outside agricultural fields; those numbers remained the same. And overall production, measured in eggs, declined 81 percent between 1999 and 2010."
Study ties GMO corn, soybeans to butterfly losses
Star Tribune, 16 March 2013

"It’s useful to remember that, until recently, Monsanto was not in the seed business. Originally a chemical company that produced plastics and pesticides, it turned to biotech in the 1980s by developing genetic traits and licensing them to companies, big and small, that conducted the actual breeding of seeds and handled sales to farmers. In the mid-1990s, Monsanto adopted a new strategy and began acquiring many of the independent seed businesses that had been the prime customers for its traits. Over the next decade Monsanto spent more than $12 billion to buy at least 30 such businesses. Alarmed by the fact that they were losing access to many key seed gene pools and seed breeders, biotech competitors – including DuPont, Dow and Syngenta – scrambled to keep up, grabbing suites of seed companies to secure their own arsenals. Once mimicked by its rivals, Monsanto’s strategy redrew the industry. Competition and variety have dwindled as a result. Since the mid-1990s, the number of independent seed companies has shrunk from some 300 firms to fewer than 100. Many businesses not bought out directly were pushed out by bankruptcy. And even these figures underestimate Monsanto’s power, as many of the independent companies that remain now must compete with the same company on which they also depend for their supply of genetic traits, a fact that constricts how freely they can select or market others’ products.... Seed companies say Monsanto began loosening its licensing agreements in 2008, less than a year after the state attorneys general opened their inquiry. Months after the Justice Department followed suit in 2009, Monsanto announced it would allow farmers to continue using its leading soybeans, Roundup Ready 1, even after its patent expired in 2014. This gesture — at least in theory — opens the market to generic competition. 'Monsanto had reached a place of sufficient dominance that it no longer needed its restrictive agreements, and they were just attracting trouble,' said the lawyer in the state attorney’s office. 'So it loosened its practices, giving seed companies more freedom to make their own choices. But it didn’t change the direction of the market — Monsanto had already locked that in....Several experts agree that the strongest case the DOJ could have brought against Monsanto would focus on how it has used its monopoly in one market — the provision of genetic traits — both to exclude rivals and to gain advantage in another market: the breeding and retail of seeds. They note that Monsanto’s practices resemble conduct by Microsoft and Dentsply, two dominant firms that the Justice Department sued for antitrust violations in the late 1990s. Both companies had used contracts to restrict competitors’ access to the platforms they needed to distribute their technologies. In at least one way Monsanto enjoys still greater power than even Microsoft: because it now owns many of these intermediaries – the seed breeders and retailers – it no longer needs written agreements to favor some companies over others. It can effectively accomplish the same outcome without the paper trail."
How Monsanto outfoxed the Obama administration
Salon, 15 March 2013

"During the last 10-15 years, an increase of Clostridium botulinum associated diseases in cattle has been observed in Germany. The reason for this development is currently unknown. The normal intestinal microflora is a critical factor in preventing intestinal colonisation by C. botulinum as shown in the mouse model of infant botulism. Numerous bacteria in the gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) produce bacteriocines directed against C. botulinum and other pathogens: Lactic acid producing bacteria (LAB) such as lactobacilli, lactococci and enterococci, generate bacteriocines that are effective against Clostridium spp. A reduction of LAB in the GIT microbiota by ingestion of strong biocides like glyphosate could be an explanation for the observed increase in levels of C. botulinum associated diseases. In the present paper, we report on the toxicity of glyphosate to the most prevalent Enterococcus spp. in the GIT. Ingestion of this herbicide could be a significant predisposing factor that is associated with the increase in C. botulinum mediated diseases in cattle."
Abstract
Glyphosate suppresses the antagonistic effect of Enterococcus spp. on Clostridium botulinum
Krüger M, Shehata AA, Schrödl W, Rodloff A.

Anaerobe. 2013 Apr;20:74-8. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2013.01.005. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

"To delay evolution of pest resistance to transgenic crops producing insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), the 'pyramid' strategy uses plants that produce two or more toxins that kill the same pest. In the United States, this strategy has been adopted widely, with two-toxin Bt cotton replacing one-toxin Bt cotton. Although two-toxin plants are likely to be more durable than one-toxin plants, the extent of this advantage depends on several conditions. One key assumption favoring success of two-toxin plants is that they kill insects selected for resistance to one toxin, which is called 'redundant killing.' Here we tested this assumption for a major pest, Helicoverpa zea, on transgenic cotton producing Bt toxins Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab. Selection with Cry1Ac increased survival on two-toxin cotton, which contradicts the assumption. The concentration of Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab declined during the growing season, which would tend to exacerbate this problem. Furthermore, analysis of results from 21 selection experiments with eight species of lepidopteran pests indicates that some cross-resistance typically occurs between Cry1A and Cry2A toxins. Incorporation of empirical data into simulation models shows that the observed deviations from ideal conditions could greatly reduce the benefits of the pyramid strategy for pests like H. zea, which have inherently low susceptibility to Bt toxins and have been exposed extensively to one of the toxins in the pyramid before two-toxin plants are adopted."
Potential shortfall of pyramided transgenic cotton for insect resistance management
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2013 110 (15) 5733-5734; doi:10.1073/iti1513110

"Some US farmers are considering returning to conventional seed after increased pest resistance and crop failures meant GM crops saw smaller yields globally than their non-GM counterparts. Farmers in the USA pay about an extra $100 per acre for GM seed, and many are questioning whether they will continue to see benefits from using GMs. 'It's all about cost benefit analysis,' said economist Dan Basse, president of American agricultural research company AgResource. 'Farmers are paying extra for the technology but have seen yields which are no better than 10 years ago. They're starting to wonder why they're spending extra money on the technology.' One of the biggest problems the USA has seen with GM seed is resistance. While it was expected to be 40 years before resistance began to develop pests such as corn rootworm have formed a resistance to GM crops in as few as 14 years. 'Some of these bugs will eat the plant and it will make them sick, but not kill them. It starts off in pockets of the country but then becomes more widespread. We're looking at going back to cultivation to control it,' said Mr Basse. 'I now use insecticides again.' One of the issues if farmers do move back towards non-GMs will be the availability of seed, he said, as around 87% of US farmers plant genetically modified seed. The top performing countries by crop yield last year were in Asia, in particular China, where farmers do not use GM seed."
US farmers may stop planting GMs after poor global yields
Farmers Weekly, 6 February 2013

"According to Philip Howard, a researcher at Michigan State University, economists say that when four firms control 40% of a market, it is no longer competitive. According to AgWeb, the 'big four' biotech seed companies—Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta, and Dow AgroSciences—own 80% of the US corn market and 70% of the soybean business. Monsanto has become the world’s largest seed company in less than 10 years by capturing markets for corn, soybean, cotton, and vegetable seeds, according to a report by the Farmer to Farmer Campaign. In addition to selling seeds, Monsanto licenses its genetically modified traits to other seed companies. As a result, more than 80% of US corn and more than 90% of soybeans planted each year contain Monsanto’s patented GM traits. Other factors that have led to industry domination by a few players include purchase of smaller seed companies by larger companies, weak antitrust law enforcement, and Supreme Court decisions that allowed GM crops and other plant materials to be patented, while prohibiting seed saving by farmers. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated Monsanto’s dominance of the seed market after holding public meetings in 2010 where farmers described the company’s practices. But at the end of 2012, DOJ announced it had 'closed its investigation into possible anticompetitive practices in the seed industry.' Diana Moss, vice president of the American Antitrust Institute, told Mother Jones food blogger Tom Philpott, 'To have a two-year investigation and close it without a peep in our view does a disservice.'”
The GMO Seed Cartel
Non-GMO Report, 1 February 2013

"According to the biotech industry, genetically modified (GM) crops are a boon to humanity because they allow farmers to 'generate higher crop yields with fewer inputs,' as the trade group Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) puts it on its web page. Buoyed by such rhetoric, genetically modified seed giant Monsanto and its peers have managed to flood the corn, soybean, and cotton seed markets with two major traits: herbicide resistance and pesticide expression—giving plants the ability to, respectively, withstand regular lashings of particular herbicides and kill bugs with the toxic trait of Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Turns out, though, that both assertions in BIO's statement are highly questionable. Washington State University researcher Charles Benbrook has demonstrated that the net effect of GMOs in the United States has been an increase in use of toxic chemical inputs. Benbrook found that while the Bt trait has indeed allowed farmers to spray dramatically lower levels of insecticides, that effect has been more than outweighed the gusher of herbicides uncorked by Monsanto's Roundup Ready technology, as weeds have rapidly adapted resistance to regular doses of Monsanto's Rounup herbicide. And in a new paper (PDF) funded by the US Department of Agriculture, University of Wisconsin researchers have essentially negated the 'more food' argument as well [Volume 31 number 2 FEBRUARY 2013 Nature Biotechnology]. The researchers looked at data from UW test plots that compared crop yields from various varieties of hybrid corn, some genetically modified and some not, between 1990 and 2010. While some GM varieties delivered small yield gains, others did not. Several even showed lower yields than non-GM counterparts. With the exception of one commonly used trait—a Bt type designed to kill the European corn borer—the authors conclude, 'we were surprised not to find strongly positive transgenic yield effects.' Both the glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) and the Bt trait for corn rootworm caused yields to drop. Then there's the question of so-called 'stacked-trait' crops—that is, say, corn engineered to contain multiple added genes—for example, Monsanto's 'Smart Stax' product, which contains both herbicide-tolerant and pesticide-expressing genes. The authors detected what they call 'gene interaction' in these crops—genes inserted into them interact with each other in ways that affect yield, often negatively. If multiple genes added to a variety didn't interact, 'the [yield] effect of stacked genes would be equal to the sum of the corresponding single gene effects,' the authors write. Instead, the stacked-trait crops were all over the map. 'We found strong evidence of gene interactions among transgenic traits when they are stacked,' they write. Most of those effects were negative—i.e., yield was reduced. Overall, the report uncovers evidence of what is known as 'yield drag'—the idea that manipulating the genome of a plant variety causes unintended changes in the way it grows, causing it to be less productive."
Do GMO Crops Really Have Higher Yields?
Mother Jones, 15 February 2013

"The area of U.S. cropland infested with glyphosate-resistant weeds has expanded to 61.2 million acres in 2012, according to a survey conducted by Stratus Agri-Marketing. Nearly half (49%) of all U.S. farmers interviewed reported that glyphosate-resistant weeds were present on their farm in 2012, up from 34% of farmers in 2011. The survey also indicates that the rate at which glyphosate-resistant weeds are spreading is gaining momentum, increasing 25% in 2011 and 51% in 2012. The Stratus Glyphosate Resistance Tracking study is conducted annually. It’s now in its third year. In 2012, Stratus completed interviews with nearly 3,000 farmers during the summer and fall. 'We asked farmers to share their experiences with glyphosate resistance on their farms and we’re clearly seeing the problem intensify,' explains Stratus Agri-Marketing vice president Kent Fraser. Increases were reported in most states but especially in the Midwest. Not only are glyphosate-resistant weeds spreading geographically, the problem is also intensifying with multiple species now resistant on an increasing number of farms. 'There is a very high rate of resistance in the southern states like Georgia where 92% of growers reported having glyphosate-resistant weeds,' reports Fraser. 'And we’re also seeing the problem intensify in the midwest. In Illinois, 43% of farmers reported having glyphosate-resistant weeds in 2012.' Marestail (horseweed) was the weed species most commonly reported as resistant to glyphosate herbicides, followed by Palmer amaranth (pigweed). Other glyphosate-resistant weed species were also tracked in the study. In 2012, 27% of U.S. farmers reported multiple glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm, up from 15% in 2011 and 12% in 2010. For more insights from the Stratus Glyphosate Resistance Tracking study visit http://www.stratusresearch.com/blog07.htm "
Glyphosate-resistant weed problem extends to more species, more farms
Farm Industry News, 29 January 2013

2012

"An Iowa man raising cattle and hogs told the Food Nation Radio Network he was forced to quit farming when GMO corn made his animals sterile. In an interview with Michael Serio, Iowa farmer Jerry Rosman said he lost his family farm due the corn he was feeding his livestock. Rosman said he used hybrids in the past and started to use GMO corn in feed in 1997 without any trouble, but things changed in 2000 when he switched to a different company’s genetics with a new genetically modified trait. Starting in 2000, most of Rosman’s animal were unable to reproduce with a low sperm count in males and females showing false pregnancies. The pigs that were reproducing had smaller litters. By adjusting the type of corn used, Rosman concluded the corn with the genetically modified trait he started using in 2000 was causing the problem."
Iowa livestock producer claims operation lost due to GMO corn
Ag Professional, 4 December 2012

"Their mission may lack the gritty urban drama of 'Law and Order' or 'CSI,' but investigators for Johnston-based DuPont Pioneer will be patrolling farm fields in Iowa next summer to see if farmers are complying with soybean seed patents. They’ll want to know if farmers are replanting soybean seeds a second year, in violation of a contract they sign when they purchase bags of soybean seeds for planting. If necessary, plant samples will undergo a form of agricultural forensics through DNA laboratory analysis. 'The investigations will be random, and the investigators will sit down with the farmers and help them comply,' said Randy Schlatter, manager of intellectual property for DuPont Pioneer. Generations of farmers have saved seeds from one harvest to the next, in part to avoid buying new seed. But since the dawn of the biotechnology age in the late 1990s, seed companies have enforced their intellectual property rights. Courts have generally backed the companies, but the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in October to consider how far the planting restrictions can go. Monsanto, Pioneer’s rival in the seed business, has sued some farmers over violations of its Roundup Ready genetic trait used in soybeans.... Monsanto has sued to protect its Roundup Ready trait, which is widely licensed to DuPont Pioneer and other seed companies. The seed’s DNA genetics have been modified to enable the soybean plant to thrive after Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide has been applied. But the patent for Roundup Ready expires next year. DuPont Pioneer and other seed companies are thus left on their own to enforce other biotechnology or breeding patents that may be in a single soybean plant.... Soybeans will be the focus of the patent enforcement, rather than corn. Soybeans are a varietal plant, which means that their seeds can be replanted with less genetic trait damage in following generations. Hybrid corn, conversely, cannot be replanted a second year without significant loss of vigor. That has been the trademark of commercial hybrids since Pioneer founder Henry A. Wallace began introducing the new seeds in 1926."
Soybean seeds face Pioneer patent police
Des Moines Register, 29 November 2012

"For the first time, Maharashtra has officially admitted that cotton yield is likely to reduce by nearly 40%. Bt cotton failure in more than 4 million hectares of land has reduced cotton yieldfrom 3.5 million quintal to 2.2 million quintal. A report sent by the state agricultural department to the Centre states that the estimate of the net direct economic loss to cotton farmers in the state will be nearly Rs6,000 crore, whereas accumulated losses are likely to cross more than Rs20,000 crore due to a steep rise in cultivation costs. Farmers and activists in the state’s cotton belt say the rise in the prices of Bt cotton seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and labour since last year has had a huge impact. 'The agrarian crisis sweeping through the state due to Bt cotton failure has only widened. Unlike when cotton crop failure was reported only from Vidarbha and Marathawada, reports of such crop failure are now coming in from Khandesh in north Maharashtra, too,' said Kishore Tiwari of farm advocacy group Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti. National Crime Records Bureau reveals that the number of farmer suicides in Maharashtra are likely to cross 5,000 this year in comparison to the 3,500 last year. The figures last year were, in fact, the highest among all states in India. This is the third year in a row that Bt cotton failure is being reported in Mahahrashtra. Last year, the state paid Rs2,000 crore to 4 million cotton farmers as compensation. Unlike earlier when dry land farmers were affected, even areas with adequate irrigation are facing a crop loss this year."
Bt failure to hit cotton yield by 40%: Govt - Mumbai
DNA (India), 26 November 2012

"Farmers in the USA have increased their use of pesticides since the introduction of genetically modified crops, according to a new study. Washington State University professor Charles Benbrook has studied the use of crops that have been genetically modified for resistance to the glyphosate weedkiller, Roundup, produced by US biotech company Monsanto. Producers of GM crops, such as Monsanto, claim they require less chemicals as plants are engineered to repel crop pests, such as aphids. But the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, found that the use of herbicides in three GM crops - cotton, soya beans and maize, actually increased in the USA over the past two decades. Herbicide-tolerant crops worked extremely well in their early years, the study found. But in recent years, so-called 'superweeds' have become resistant to glyphosate - Roundup's main active ingredient. Superweeds such as horseweed, giant ragweed and pigweed are developing resistance to Roundup (glyphosate) and taking over millions of hectares in the USA. Since about the year 2000, farmers have used increasing amounts of Roundup and 'two or three additional herbicides' to fend off these resistant weeds, said Prof Benbrook. 'Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GM crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25%,' he added. Prof Benbrook estimated the use of GM crops had increased herbicide use by 239 million kg between 1996 and 2011. Overall, in this period pesticide use in the USA had increased by an estimated 183 million kg, equivalent to 7%, the study found. The research would appear to undermine claims from biotech companies, such as Monsanto, that GM crops need less chemicals - one of their major selling points. Farmers in the UK are banned from growing GM crops for commercial use, but two experimental field trials, of GM potatoes and a trial of GM wheat, began in 2012. GM crops do, however, enter Britain mainly as animal feed. Monsanto has so far not made an official comment on the findings of the study."
US farmers using more pesticides with GM crops
Farmers Weekly, 23 October 2012

"Planting GM crops has led to an increase rather than a decrease in the use of pesticides in the last 16 years, according to US scientists. The researchers said that the plants have caused superweeds and toxin-resistant insects to emerge, meaning farmers have not only had to use more pesticides on their crops overall, but are also using older and more dangerous chemicals. The findings dramatically undermine the case for adopting the crops, which were sold to farmers and shoppers on the basis that they would reduce the need to be treated with powerful chemicals. The team at Washington State University found the weight of chemicals used on US farms has increased by 183million kilos since GM crops were introduced in 1996. Of that total, herbicide use increased over the 16-year period by 239 million kilos while insecticide use decreased by 56 million kilos. Most GM crops produced to date – such as corn, soya and cotton – have been modified in the laboratory to make them immune to certain weedkillers, such as Monsanto’s RoundUp. It means the GM plants can thrive while the surrounding weeds are wiped out. However, the reality is that a number of weeds have developed an immunity to the chemical and are now able to swamp farmers’ fields. The biggest threats are giant ragweed and pigweed, which grows at a rate of more than one inch a day and reaches a height of three metres. The so-called perfect superweed is extremely hardy, produces 10,000 seeds at a time and will smother food crops in the same field. The overall effect is that desperate farmers are now using a cocktail of many different chemicals to try and tame the weeds. A number of GM plants, including some types of corn, have been modified to include a toxin called Bt that kills predator insects that feed on them. But again, these insects are developing an immunity to the toxin included in the plants, which means farmers have to resort to chemical sprays. Study leader Professor Charles Benbrook, of the university’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, said: ‘Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GM crops and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 per cent. .... Professor Benbrook’s paper is published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe and comes two weeks after after a feeding trial in rats raised concerns that consuming GM corn might trigger a rise in breast cancer and organ damage."
How GM crops have increased the use of danger pesticides and created superweeds and toxin-resistant insects
Mail, 3 October 2012

"U.S. farmers are using more hazardous pesticides to fight weeds and insects due largely to heavy adoption of genetically modified crop technologies that are sparking a rise of 'superweeds' and hard-to-kill insects, according to a newly released study.Genetically engineered crops have led to an increase in overall pesticide use, by 404 million pounds from the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011, according to the report by Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.... Of that total, herbicide use increased over the 16-year period by 527 million pounds while insecticide use decreased by 123 million pounds. Benbrook's paper -- published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe over the weekend and announced on Monday -- undermines the value of both herbicide-tolerant crops and insect-protected crops, which were aimed at making it easier for farmers to kill weeds in their fields and protect crops from harmful pests, said Benbrook.... The crops were a hit with farmers who found they could easily kill weed populations without damaging their crops. But in recent years, more than two dozen weed species have become resistant to Roundup's chief ingredient glyphosate, causing farmers to use increasing amounts both of glyphosate and other weedkilling chemicals to try to control the so-called 'superweeds.' 'Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,' Benbrook said. Monsanto officials had no immediate comment."
Pesticide use ramping up as GMO crop technology backfires: study
Reuters, 2 October 2012

"A study published this week by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook finds that the use of herbicides in the production of three genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops -- cotton, soybeans and corn -- has actually increased. This counterintuitive finding is based on an exhaustive analysis of publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service. Benbrook's analysis is the first peer-reviewed, published estimate of the impacts of genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant (HT) crops on pesticide use. In the study, which appeared in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, Benbrook writes that the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory in herbicide use. Marketed as Roundup and other trade names, glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds. Approximately 95 percent of soybean and cotton acres, and more than 85 percent of corn, are planted to varieties genetically modified to be herbicide resistant. 'Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and they are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,' Benbrook said. The annual increase in the herbicides required to deal with tougher-to-control weeds on cropland planted to GE cultivars has grown from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to about 90 million pounds in 2011."
'Superweeds' Linked to Rising Herbicide Use in GM Crops, Study Finds
ScienceDaily, 2 October 2012

"Biotechnology gave the cotton industry a new lease of life – or more accurately, allowed the industry to survive – but the age of miracles is over, Moree consultant Andrew Parkes told the Australian Cotton Conference. Mr Parkes, chairman of the Transgenic and Insecticide Management Strategies Committee, sounded a clear warning about the dangers of heliothis resistance to Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) gene technology. Transgenic cotton carrying the Bt proteins allowed the industry to vault over mounting concern about pesticide use in cotton. But now the conditions for fostering resistance to the proteins used in transgenic cotton are widespread, and there are disturbing signs the industry won't be able to make a clean start when Bollgard III is released in about six years. The native heliothis moths whose larvae wreak havoc on cotton have shown a prodigious ability to acquire resistance to everything thrown at them. Mr Parkes said traits for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance were now present in 90-100 per cent of the cotton crop. 'Not only are we increasing the percentage of the traits we are using, we are also massively increasing the area of cotton using these traits, in the past two years in particular,' he said. 'In terms of exposure, not only do we have these proteins out there 24/7, we have them on almost every hectare we sow.'.... New research is also highlighting Bollgard III will not wipe the resistance slate clean. Bollgard III stacks the Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab present in Bollgard II with the Vip3A protein, discovered by Syngenta – reportedly in milk soured in a research lab fridge – and licenced to Monsanto. When Cry1Ac was released, there was about 1:1,000,000 chance it would be eaten by a heliothis with a background resistance to the protein. With Cry2Ab, the odds shortened to 1:100, but the two proteins work in concert in Bollgard II. Now Australian scientists have found the odds of background heliothis resistance to Vip3A is 2:100 or 3:100 – 'and once they are resistant, they are highly resistant,' Mr Parkes said..... Mr Parkes also entered a plea for greater attention to herbicide resistance in cotton and the grain crops that are often sown on the same land. 'Do we have to follow America in everything?' '50pc of upland American cotton is infested with glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth.' 'Prior to 2005, 17pc of the growers in Georgia were hand-weeding 50 per cent of their area, at a cost of $2 an acre.' 'Seven years later, they are hand-weeding 52pc of the area, and it's costing them $24/ac.' 'In 2011 there were 13 recorded species resistant to glyphosate in the US, within which there were 85 biotypes in 28 States, of which 15pc were resistant to more than one mode of action.' 'If we don't focus on what happens in the long term we won't have an industry.'"
No more miracles so look after Bollgard
The Land, 24 August 2012

"There’s 'mounting evidence' that Monsanto Co. (MON) corn that’s genetically modified to control insects is losing its effectiveness in the Midwest, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said. The EPA commented in response to questions about a scientific study last month that found western corn rootworms on two Illinois farms had developed resistance to insecticide produced by Monsanto’s corn. Rootworms affect corn’s ability to draw water and nutrients from the soil and were responsible for about $1 billion a year in damages and pesticide bills until seeds with built-in insecticide were developed a decade ago. The agency’s latest statement on rootworm resistance comes a year after the problem was first documented and just as U.S. corn yields are forecast to be the lowest in 17 years amid drought in the Corn Belt. Corn is St. Louis-based Monsanto’s biggest business line, accounting for $4.81 billion of sales, or 41 percent of total revenue, in its 2011 fiscal year. 'There is mounting evidence raising concerns that insect resistance is developing in parts of the corn belt,' the EPA said Aug. 31 in an e-mail. .... Monsanto’s worst resistance problem is with crops engineered to tolerate its Roundup herbicide. 'Superweeds' that Roundup no longer kills have invaded as many as 20 million acres (8.1 million hectares) of corn and soybeans, according to a Dow study. As many as 28 million acres of cotton, soybean and corn may host Roundup-resistant weeds by 2015, according to Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta. ... Corn fields in four states -- Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota andNebraska -- were overrun by rootworm last year, prompting the EPA to say in a November memo that Monsanto’s bug-killing corn may be losing its effectiveness. The agency also said at the time that Monsanto’s program for monitoring suspected cases of resistance was 'inadequate.'... The Illinois and Iowa studies into insect resistance were conducted by Aaron Gassmann, an entomologist at Iowa State University. The Illinois study looked at the progeny of rootworms collected last year at farms in Whiteside and Henry counties, where the bugs had devoured the roots of corn plants, said Michael Gray, an agricultural entomologist at theUniversity of Illinois in Urbana, who collected the bugs in their adult beetle phase."
‘Mounting Evidence’ of Bug-Resistant Corn Seen by EPA
Bloomberg, 5 September 2012

"Rootworms have become resistant to a common strain of genetically engineered corn, according to a University study. Genetically modified corn that produce a toxin called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, was designed to damage pests’ intestines if they ingested the corn.  University entomology professor Mike Gray’s research confirmed a previous Iowa State University study indicating that rootworms, which are considered corn’s worst pest, have become resistant to a breed of Monsanto-produced genetically engineered corn. Gray’s research involved analyzing adult rootworms from Illinois in Iowa State University labs and comparing the results to the previous study. 'It’s an unfortunate consequence of the overuse of good technology,' Gray said.... Gray said farmers should talk to their seed salesmen to see what they recommend to control the rootworm resistance. However, he said that because the rootworm problem began after farmers started growing corn or year after year in the same field, they could try alternating between planting corn and soybeans each year to deter pests."
University study reveals pest now resistant to genetically modified corn
The Daily Illini, 29 August 2012

"The corn rootworm is called the billion-dollar pest, a rough estimate of how much money U.S. farmers spend annually to keep it at bay. The best weapon they've ever had is a genetically modified corn plant containing a protein that kills the insect. But many bug experts are convinced that rootworms have developed a resistance to the protein, so that they can feast on the plant's roots and survive. On top of a punishing drought, the leading corn pest is adding to crop damage in parts of Minnesota and elsewhere -- even though the plants are supposed to be immune from the bug, the corn rootworm beetle. 'We're not going to make this go away,' said University of Minnesota professor Bruce Potter, a pest management specialist. 'We're stuck with managing this problem.' U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials looked at some problem fields in the Midwest last week and hope to hear some research results soon from Monsanto, which distributes genetically modified seeds.  There's no official confirmation of rootworm resistance, and Monsanto so far contends there is none. But Potter has seen what he calls a 'ridiculous' increase in rootworms apparently unfazed by the usually deadly protein in southern and western Minnesota this summer. Earlier this week he was at a workshop on a farm that has had resistant rootworm problems. The session drew about 100 farmers and agricultural consultants. Potter told them the genetically modified corn is basically backfiring. 'Instead of making things easier, we've just made corn rootworm management harder and a heck of a lot more expensive,' Potter said."
Corn farmers struggle to cope with rootworm resistance
Minnesota Public Radio, 3 August 2012

"The state government is seriously considering switching from genetically modified (GM) cotton to more conventional cotton seeds. A plan to phase out and look for alternatives of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton is being chalked out by leading state agricultural universities with the help of private companies. The government has, in fact, been cracking down on firms supplying sub-standard seeds and has been taking action against Mahyco Monsanto Biotech, which sub-licences the use of Bollgard I and II technologies to 28 Indian firms....The use of Bt cotton has resulted in a stagnant yield as there is a question mark on whether the marginal land of Vidarbha land is suited for Bt cotton. It has led to the evolution of new pest and disease attacks, Patil said. The universities have been told to assess the BG-1 and BG-2 Bt seeds for resistance capabilities. against cotton bollworm species, Spotted Bollworm, American Bollworm and Spodoptera Litura. The two varieties are widely used in the state. 'We need a better variety of Bt cotton for rain-fed cotton immediately,' state officials said. Since 2005, Bt is causing 'crop failure', resulting in a loss of Rs2,000 crore annually."
Review Bt cotton, orders state govt
Times of India, 21 July 2012

"Data presented at a conference by Dr Charles Benbrook analyse pesticide use on GM and non-GM equivalent crops over the first 16 years of use, from 1996 to 2011. The analysis is based on widely accepted USDA data.  Crops considered are herbicide-tolerant corn, soy, and cotton; Bt corn varieties engineered to resist corn rootworm and European corn borer pests; and Bt cotton. Benbrook’s new data challenge 'conventional wisdom' on GM crops and pesticide use. Dozens of papers in peer-reviewed journals assert GM crops reduce pesticide use, either based on no data or proprietary surveys of 'representative fields'. Scientists repeat the claim in professional meetings and policy venues and lack of independent analyses by government or university experts allows the claim to go unchallenged, despite growing evidence to the contrary.... The new data is an update of Benbrook’s previous reports of 2004 and 2009. The 2009 report found that herbicide use had increased 383 million pounds (173 million kgs) in first 13 years of GM crop use, due to herbicide-tolerant crops. A modest reduction in chemical insecticide spray applications due to Bt crops (down 64.2 million pounds or 29.1 million kg) was swamped by an overall increase in pesticide use of 318 million pounds (144 million kg)."
New Benbrook data blow away claims of pesticide reduction due to GM crops
GM Watch, 4 July 2012

"Pests are adapting to genetically modified crops in unexpected ways, researchers have discovered. The findings underscore the importance of closely monitoring and countering pest resistance to biotech crops. Resistance of cotton bollworm to insect-killing cotton plants involves more diverse genetic changes than expected, an international research team reports in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.... Over time, scientists have learned, initially rare genetic mutations that confer resistance to Bt toxins are becoming more common as a growing number of pest populations adapt to Bt crops. In the first study to compare how pests evolve resistance to Bt crops in the laboratory vs. the field, researchers discovered that while some the of the lab-selected mutations do occur in the wild populations, some mutations that differ markedly from those seen in the lab are important in the field. Caterpillars of the cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera, can munch on a wide array of plants before emerging as moths. This species is the major cotton pest in China, where the study was carried out. Bruce Tabashnik, head of the department of entomology at the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who co-authored the study, considers the findings an early warning to farmers, regulatory agencies and the biotech industry. 'Scientists expected the insects to adapt, but we're just finding out now how they're becoming resistant in the field,' Tabashnik said..... According to Tabashnik, the refuge strategy worked brilliantly against the pink bollworm in Arizona, where this pest had plagued cotton farmers for a century, but is now scarce. The dominant mutations discovered in China throw a wrench in the refuge strategy because resistant offspring arise from matings between susceptible and resistant insects.... The current study is part of a collaboration funded by the Chinese government, involving a dozen scientists at four institutions in China and the U.S. Yidong Wu at Nanjing Agricultural University designed the study and led the Chinese effort. He emphasized the importance of the ongoing collaboration for addressing resistance to Bt crops, which is a major issue in China. He also pointed out that the discovery of dominant resistance will encourage the scientific community to rethink the refuge strategy.... The researchers report that resistance-conferring mutations in cotton bollworm were three times more common in northern China than in areas of northwestern China where less Bt cotton has been grown. Even in northern China, however, growers haven't noticed the emerging resistance yet, Tabashnik said, because only about 2 percent of the cotton bollworms there are resistant. "As a grower, if you're killing 98 percent of pests with Bt cotton, you wouldn't notice anything. But this study tells us there is trouble on the horizon."
GM crop trouble as pests adapt
Western Farm Press, 21 June 2012

"The report GMO Myths and Truths is a detailed study covering everything from the genetic engineering technique through to an analysis of the benefits of GM foods and crops. The report is heavily referenced, allowing the reader to determine the validity of the authors’ conclusions. The section on GM crops’ impact on the farm and environment seriously questions the benefits of growing these crops, citing examples of increased pesticide use, pest resistance, inconclusive yield benefits and their value in feeding the worlds increasing population..... weighing in at over 120 pages ... it’s not the weight that makes for uncomfortable reading but the detailed critique of many of the supposed benefits of GM technology and the fact that these have all been brought together in one report. What makes it even more difficult to ignore is the credentials of the authors concerned, these are not your light-weight anti-everything tree huggers but acclaimed scientists. This should open up the debate at a high level on the benefits of GM crops and be essential reading not just for policy makers. The questions raised in this report are too numerous and serious to be simply disregarded."
New report challenges GM industry myths
Farming Online, 19 June 2012

"Corn that has been genetically engineered by Monsanto Co. to kill pests is being damaged by those pests instead – and it's weeks earlier than they typically show up. 'We're still early in the growing season, and the adults are about a month ahead of schedule,' explained Mike Gray, a professor of entomology with the University of Illinois. 'I was surprised to see them – and there were a lot.' Last year, farmers in several states found that the western corn rootworm – a major crop pest that has the potential to seriously reduce yields – was surviving after ingesting an insecticidal toxin produced by the corn plants. The corn, launched in 2003, is engineered to produce a protein, known as Cry3Bb1, derived from a bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. The rootworms ingest the roots of the corn, known as 'Bt corn,' and the protein is fatal. But farmers in six states last year reported damage from rootworm to Bt corn – a sign that the product, which was grown on 37 million acres in 2011, could be losing its efficacy. The reports last year came after Iowa State University researcher, Aaron Gassmann, published a study saying that the rootworms were becoming resistant to the product, creating so-called 'superbugs' in Iowa fields. Gray said that resistance has not been proven in Illinois fields, but the rootworms found in Illinois have been bred in a lab at Iowa State to determine if resistance is developing, or being passed from one generation to the next. 'That's the suspicion. We're careful not to use the resistance word here in Illinois,' he said. 'But it matches what Gassmann has seen so far.'”
Pests damaging biotech corn, getting an early start
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 15 June 2012

"GM has not delivered the yield benefits that were expected while higher seed costs eat into returns. 'GM is a tool, it’s not a panacea,' Dan Basse told an audience at Cereals 2012. Mr Basse heads US commodities market information company AgResource and farms in Wisconsin. He described GM corn yields as disappointing and said that the technology had increased yield by just 0.10%, with US corn yields following the same yield trend since 1961.  '47% of the world corn crop is GM. Why have we not seen more of a yield kick is GM has done what it was supposed to do? This makes me mad – I’m paying extra for the seed but I’m not seeing the return. I’m not saying GM crops are good or bad – that’s just my experience. We’re now back to using insecticides because root worms in corn have become resistant.”
Cereals 2012: GM corn - not a 'panacea'
Farmers Weekly, 14 June 2012

"Ten years after it was introduced to India, genetically modified cotton is not living up to its promise. It is vulnerable to new diseases and yields are not as great as expected. The government of Andhra Pradesh announced that for almost two-thirds of land under cultivation, the 2011 harvest was down by half on the previous year. In a departure, the government of Maharashtra state, and a court in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, have ordered the German seed company Bayer CropScience to pay more than $1.1m in compensation to more than 1,000 farmers for cotton hybrids that did not deliver the promised yields. Bayer CropScience has denied any responsibility and blamed 'inadequate crop management and adverse environmental conditions'. It is preparing an appeal. Since the introduction of GM cotton in 2002, harvests in India have doubled and the country ranks as the world's second-largest producer. But the 'white revolution' prompts distrust. Opponents of GM crops claim the increased yields of the early 2000s were due to better irrigation and favourable weather. Over the past six years average yields per hectare have barely changed, despite a fourfold increase in the use of GM cotton. In 2011, the head of the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Keshav Raj Kranthi, issued a warning on hybrid cotton's increased vulnerability to bacteria. 'Productivity in north India is likely to decline because of the declining potential of hybrids; the emerging problem of leaf curl virus on the new susceptible Bt-hybrids; a high level of susceptibility to sucking pests (straight varieties were resistant),' Kranthi explained in a paper published in June 2011."
India loses faith in GM cotton
Guardian, 15 May 2012

"A fast-spreading plague of 'super weeds' taking over U.S. farmland will not be stopped easily, and farmers and government officials need to change existing practices if food production is to be protected, industry experts said on Thursday. 'This is a complex problem,' said weed scientist David Shaw in remarks to a national 'summit' of weed experts in Washington to come up with a plan to battle weeds that have developed resistance to herbicides. Weed resistance has spread to more than 12 million U.S. acres and primarily afflicts key agricultural areas in the U.S. Southeast and the corn and soybean growing areas of the Midwest.....Several farmers spoke out about their struggles at the summit, as did experts from the USDA and crop consultants. 'This is our number one issue,' said Arkansas crop consultant Chuck Farr. 'It is a challenge every day, every field.' Harold Coble, an agromist and weed scientist with the USDA, called the problem of weed resistance a 'game changer' and said farmers must become more versatile. Too many have simply been relying on the chemicals for too long, he said. A joint report from the USDA and the Weed Science Society of America said 'a significant proportion of growers are not practicing adequate proactive herbicide resistance management.' Such 'indiscriminate' use of herbicides is effectively making the problem worse, year after year. It will be at least 20 years before any new chemical modes of action are available in the market for farmers to fight weeds with, said Coble. Many weed experts recommended at least a partial return to limited tillage, which is largely frowned upon because it encourages soil erosion. Some experts recommended use of 'cover' crops, planted to cover a field after harvest to stymie weed development while adding nutrients to the soil. The industry is also looking at the use of multiple herbicide mechanisms with newer and more specific labeling to combat varying weed densitites. Experts discussed using equipment that can collect weeds and weed seed at harvest along with grains, so weed seed can be removed and destroyed."
Super weeds no easy fix for US agriculture-experts
Reuters, 10 May 2012

"Herbicide-resistant superweeds threaten to overgrow U.S. fields, so agriculture companies have genetically engineered a new generation of plants to withstand heavy doses of multiple, extra-toxic weed-killing chemicals. It’s a more intensive version of the same approach that made the resistant superweeds such a problem — and some scientists think it will fuel the evolution of the worst superweeds yet. These weeds may go a step further than merely being able to survive one or two or three specific weedkillers. The intense chemical pressure could cause them to evolve resistance that would apply to entire classes of chemicals. 'The kind of resistance we'll select for with these kinds of crops will be different from what we've seen in the past,' said agroecologist Bruce Maxwell of Montana State University. 'They'll select a kind of resistance that's more metabolism-based, and likely resistant to everything.' These superweeds now infest 60 million acres of U.S. farmland, a fast-growing number that foreshadows a time when agriculture’s front-line weedkiller is largely useless. Enlist, which Dow estimates will save $4 billion in superweed-related farm losses by 2020, represents the industry’s main response to the problem: Bringing back old chemicals in new ways."
New GM Crops Could Make Superweeds Even Stronger
Wired News, 1 May 2012

"'Biotechnology's promise to feed the world did not anticipate 'Trojan corn,' 'super weeds' and the disappearance of monarch butterflies. But in the Midwest and South - blanketed by more than 170 million acres of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton - an experiment begun in 1996 with approval of the first commercial genetically modified organisms is producing questionable results. Those results include vast increases in herbicide use that have created impervious weeds now infesting millions of acres of cropland, while decimating other plants, such as milkweeds that sustain the monarch butterflies. Food manufacturers are worried that a new corn made for ethanol could damage an array of packaged food on supermarket shelves..... Last month, scientists definitively tied heavy use of glyphosate to an 81 percent decline in the monarch butterfly population. It turns out that the herbicide has obliterated the milkweeds on Midwest corn farms where the monarchs lay their eggs after migrating from Mexico. Iowa State University ecologist John Pleasants, one of the study's authors, said the catastrophic decline in monarchs is a consequence of the genetically engineered crops that no one foresaw. Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit group that has waged a litigation battle against biotechnology companies, said the new crops are part of 'a chemical arms race, where biotechnology met Charles Darwin.'"
Genetically modified crops' results raise concern
San Francisco Chronicle, 30 April 2012

"'Enlist,' entering the final stages of regulatory approval, has become the latest flashpoint in the debate about the risks and rewards about farm technology. With a deadline to submit public comments on Dow's proposal at the end of this week, more than 5,000 individuals and groups have already weighed in. Dow Agrosciences, a unit of Dow Chemical Co (DOW.N), hopes to have the product approved this year and released by the 2013 crop. The corn itself is not the issue -- rather it is the potent herbicide chemical component 2,4-D that is the centre of debate. The new corn is engineered to withstand liberal dousings of a Dow-developed herbicide containing the compound, commonly used in lawn treatments of broadleaf weeds and for clearing fields of weeds before crops like wheat and barley are planted. Enlist is the first in a planned series of new herbicide-tolerant crops aimed at addressing a resurgence of crop-choking weeds that have developed resistance to rival Monsanto's (MON.N) popular Roundup herbicide....In the southern third of Illinois, prime corn-belt country, infestations of the invasive water hemp weed have doubled each year over the past three years, according to Bryan Young, weed scientist at Southern Illinois University....  Chemical giant BASF (BASFn.DE) and Monsanto plan to unveil by the middle of this decade crops tolerant to a mix of the chemicals dicamba and glyphosate."
Analysis - Dow's new corn - 'time bomb' or farmers' dream?
Reuters, 24 April 2012

"Global grain buyers are marking down the price of Australia's genetically modified canola as the European market shuts the gate on GM crops. The Australian Wheat Board is offering to buy up supplies of GM canola at guaranteed prices. Global agribusiness giant Monsanto -- which produces 'Round-up Ready' canola, genetically modified to survive sprayings by its trademarked weed killer -- has told GM canola farmers they will lose no more than $10 a tonne for product delivered to agricultural company Cargill's crush facility at Newcastle by June 29. 'AWB will guarantee that the varietal grade spread of Roundup Ready canola is no more than $10 a metric tonne discount to non-GM canola. 'AWB would like to offer you some certainty when marketing your Roundup Ready canola crop by offering you the opportunity to fix the varietal price spread between the price of Roundup Ready canola and non-GM canola,' the head of Monsanto's Australian operations, Daniel Kruithoff, says in a letter to farmers. Global agribusiness Viterra is paying a $45 a tonne premium for standard canola in Western Australia -- 8 per cent more than for the GM herbicide-resistant canola, which was introduced to Australia eight years ago. The nation's biggest co-operative -- WA grain growers' giant CBH Group -- is paying $40 to $45 a tonne less for GM canola, a 6 per cent markdown. CBH Grains protein and oilseeds marketing manager Peter Elliott said yesterday Europe wanted to buy Australian canola, but would not accept GM product."
Monsanto props up weak GM crop price
The Australian, 23 April 2012

"A much-used herbicide, which for years has helped farmers throughout the United States increase profits, is losing its effectiveness and forcing producers to spend more and use more chemicals to control the weeds that threaten yields. 'I've gone from budgeting $45 an acre just two years ago to spending more than $100 an acre now to control weeds,' said Mississippi farmer John McKee, who grows corn, cotton and soybeans on his 3,300-acre farm in the Delta. The problem is Roundup, a herbicide introduced in the 1970s, and its partner, Roundup Ready crop seeds, genetically modified to withstand Roundup's active ingredient, glyphosate. In 1996, Monsanto introduced Roundup Ready soybean, soon touted as a game changer. 'It was an extremely valuable and useful tool for the past 15 years,' said Bob Scott, extension weed scientist with the University of Arkansas. The problem now is the weeds that Roundup once controlled are becoming resistant to glyphosate, Scott said. 'It's a very, very serious issue here in the Delta,' licensed crop consultant Joe Townsend said. 'We're knee-deep in it.'"
As Roundup's effect fades, farming costs rise
Delawareonline, 17 April 2012

"Borup Pedersen, Pilegården in Hvidsten, has experienced a marked change in his pig herd after he switched to GM-free soy in diets .... 'Most obvious was the fact that our massive problems with the baby pig diarrhea disappeared from one day to another', he says. After switching to GM-free soy, Borup Pedersen noted a number of improvements - including easier farrowing, sows with higher milk yield, fewer dead piglets, more uniform pigs at weaning, lower medication use, a higher farrowing rate and an increase in weaned pigs per pen. to 14 litter of pigs. The many improvements in the herd can easily pay for the expensive GM-free feed..... The farmer adds he is convinced that his colleagues would drop GM forage crops if the known harmful effects on animals and humans."
Google Translate - Svineproducent høster gevinst af gmo-fri soja
EFFEKTIVT LANDBRUG, 13 April 2012

"Genetically engineered corn and soybeans make it easy for farmers to eradicate weeds, including the long-lived and unruly milkweed. But they might be putting the monarch butterfly in peril. The rapid spread of herbicide-resistant crops has coincided with -- and may explain -- the dramatic decline in monarch numbers that has troubled some naturalists over the past decade, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University. Between 1999 and 2010, the same period in which so-called GMO crops became the norm for farmers, the number of monarch eggs declined by an estimated 81 percent across the Midwest, the researchers say. That's because milkweed -- the host plant for the eggs and caterpillars produced by one of one of the most gaudy and widely recognized of all North American butterflies -- has nearly disappeared from farm fields, they found. It is one of the clearest examples yet of unintended consequences from the widespread use of genetically modified seeds, said John Pleasants, a monarch researcher from Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. 'When we put something out there, we don't know always what the consequences are,' he said. Pleasants and Karen Oberhauser, of the University of Minnesota, published their findings online last week in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity."
Study ties GMO corn, soybeans to butterfly losses
Star Tribune, 16 March 2012

"Monsanto Co. (MON), the biggest seed maker, said the bushy plant Kochia is no longer being killed by the company’s Roundup in parts of Canada, a sign that resistance to the world’s best-selling herbicide is spreading. Kochia that resists glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was confirmed in three fields in southern Alberta, St. Louis-based Monsanto said yesterday in a statement on its website. The weed, which can thrive in drought conditions and grow 7 feet tall (2.1 meters), previously was found to be glyphosate-resistant in three U.S. states, the company said. Glyphosate-resistant weeds have spread with the popularity of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops, which are genetically modified to withstand applications of the herbicide. To combat the problem, Monsanto and its rivals are engineering crops that resist additional weed killers such as dicamba and 2,4-D, an ingredient in the defoliant Agent Orange. Kochia resistance in Alberta affects 101 to 500 acres, according to the website of the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds. The Canadian case is different from most because the kochia, found in fallow fields, don’t appear to have developed resistance on farms where Roundup Ready crops were regularly planted, Monsanto said. Still, the weeds 'could present new challenges' on Alberta farms that use Roundup Ready canola and sugarbeet seeds, the company said. In the U.S., Roundup-resistant weeds such as kochia and Palmer amaranth have invaded 14 million acres of cotton, soybean and corn, and that will double by 2015, Syngenta AG said last year. A Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) study in 2011 found as many as 20 million acres of corn and soybeans may already be infested."
Monsanto Says Weedkiller-Resistant Kochia Found in Canada
Bloomberg, 12 January 2012

2011

"Crop pests appear to have developed resistance to an insect toxin inserted into GM corn plants. As a result, these ‘superbugs’ are surviving efforts by farmers to kill them and so are damaging food crops on farms in the U.S. The revelation is a blow to supporters of the technology and raises questions over whether the regime that approves and polices genetically modified crops is sufficiently rigorous....The corn plants at the centre of the controversy have had a toxic bacteria normally found in soil – Bacillus thuringiensis – inserted into them. The idea is that when corn rootworm bugs try to eat the plants they become ill and die before causing serious damage. The GM crop, which is called Bt corn, was hailed as the answer to farmers’ prayers when it was introduced in America in 2003. ... But over the last few summers, it has become clear that ‘superbug’ versions of the rootworms have been able to feast on the Bt corn plants in parts of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska without significant ill effects. The details were revealed in a memo from the U.S. government’s Environmental Protection Agency. It said: ‘Resistance is suspected in at least some portions of four states in which 'unexpected damage' reports originated.’...A scientist recently sounded an alarm throughout the biotech industry when he published findings concluding that rootworms in a handful of Bt cornfields in Iowa had evolved an ability to survive the corn's formidable defenses. Similar crop damage has been seen in parts of Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska, but researchers are still investigating whether rootworms capable of surviving the Bt toxin were the cause. University of Minnesota entomologist Kenneth Ostlie said the severity of rootworm damage to Bt fields in Minnesota has eased since the problem surfaced in 2009. Yet reports of damage have become more widespread, and he fears resistance could be spreading undetected because the damage rootworms inflict often isn't apparent....Some scientists fear it could already be too late to prevent the rise of resistance, in large part because of the way some farmers have been planting the crop. They point to two factors: farmers who have abandoned crop rotation and others who have neglected to plant non-Bt corn within Bt fields or in surrounding fields as a way to create a ‘refuge’ for non-resistant rootworms sot they will mate with resistant rootworms and dilute their genes."
The billion-dollar pest: U.S. beetle is developing resistance to one of the most widely used genetically modified crops, say scientists
Mail, 29 December 2011

"Monsanto Co. (MON) corn that’s genetically engineered to kill insects may be losing its effectiveness against rootworms in four states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said. Rootworms in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska are suspected of developing tolerance to the plants’ insecticide, based on documented cases of severe crop damage and reports from entomologists, the EPA said in a memo dated Nov. 22 and posted Nov. 30 on a government website. Monsanto’s program for monitoring suspected cases of resistance is 'inadequate,' the EPA said. 'Resistance is suspected in at least some portions of four states in which ‘unexpected damage’ reports originated,' the EPA said in the memo, which reviewed damage reports....An Iowa State University study said in July that some rootworms have evolved resistance to an insect-killing protein derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a natural insecticide engineered into Monsanto corn. Entomologists in Illinois and other Midwestern states are studying possible resistance where the insects devour roots of Monsanto’s Bt corn."
Monsanto Corn May Be Failing to Kill Bugs, EPA Says
Bloomberg, 2 December 2011

"Farmer Mark Nelson bends down and yanks a four-foot-tall weed from his northeast Kansas soybean field. The 'waterhemp' towers above his beans, sucking up the soil moisture and nutrients his beans need to grow well and reducing the ultimate yield. As he crumples the flowering end of the weed in his hand, Nelson grimaces. 'When we harvest this field, these waterhemp seeds will spread all over kingdom come,' he said. Nelson’s struggle to control crop-choking weeds is being repeated all over America’s farmland. An estimated 11 million acres are infested with 'super weeds,' some of which grow several inches in a day and defy even multiple dousings of the world’s top-selling herbicide, Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate. The problem’s gradual emergence has masked its growing menace. Now, however, it is becoming too big to ignore. The super weeds boost costs and cut crop yields for US farmers starting their fall harvest this month. And their use of more herbicides to fight the weeds is sparking environmental concerns. With food prices near record highs and a growing population straining global grain supplies, the world cannot afford diminished crop production, nor added environmental problems. 'I’m convinced that this is a big problem,' said Dave Mortensen, professor of weed and applied plant ecology at Penn State University, who has been helping lobby members of Congress about the implications of weed resistance. 'Most of the public doesn’t know because the industry is calling the shots on how this should be spun,' Mortensen said. Last month, representatives from the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the Weed Science Society of America toured the Midwest crop belt to see for themselves the impact of rising weed resistance. 'It is only going to get worse,' said Lee Van Wychen, director of science policy at the Weed Science Society of America. At the heart of the matter is Monsanto Co., the world’s biggest seed company and the maker of Roundup. Monsanto has made billions of dollars and revolutionized row crop agriculture through sales of Roundup and “Roundup Ready” crops genetically modified to tolerate treatment with Roundup.... Penn State’s Mortensen said farmer efforts to control resistant weeds are estimated to cost nearly $1 billion a year and result in a 70 percent increase in pesticide use by 2015. Since Monsanto introduced its glyphosate-resistant crops, 21 weed species have evolved to resist the hebicide, up from none in 1995. The list is growing by one to two species per year, Mortensen said. Farmers and crop experts say that when superweeds take root in farm fields, yield reductions of 1-2 bushels an acre are common, even with extra pesticide doses. With soybeans at more than $14 a bushel, a 1,000-acre farm might lose more than $20,000 to weeds on top of the costs of the added pesticides."
Super weeds pose growing threat to US crops
Reuters, 19 September 2011

"Scientists sounded the alarm years ago, but now their predictions appear to be an encroaching reality: Monsanto's biotech corn is showing signs, they say, that it no longer repels the pests it is engineered to kill. Last month, researchers from Iowa State University published a study showing that the western corn rootworm - a major crop pest and yield-reducer - is surviving after ingesting an insecticidal toxin produced by the corn plants. A University of Illinois professor says he believes the same thing could be happening in fields in northwestern Illinois. The problem, if it spreads, could mean that farmers will lose a critical tool in managing pests - and the Creve Coeur-based biotech and seed giant could lose ground on a profitable technology. The corn, which Monsanto launched in 2003, is engineered to produce a protein, known as Cry3Bb1, derived from a bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. The rootworms ingest the roots of this 'Bt corn,' as it's referred to in the industry, and the protein is fatal. But the Iowa team determined that in some fields with heavy populations of rootworm the Bt corn was not killing the rootworm. The study, the scientists said, is the first report of resistance to the toxin in the field, but more are probably on the way, some scientists believe. 'I think there is the potential for more problems to surface,' said Mike Gray, an entomologist with the University of Illinois who is studying rootworm damage in northwestern Illinois fields. 'These Bt hybrids are grown very widely.' However, Monsanto said that the problem did not amount to 'resistance' and added that it was confined to as little as 10,000 acres in certain 'hot spots.'"
Monsanto biotech corn not killing pests, research finds
St Louis Post Dispatch, 2 September 2011

"Widely grown corn plants that Monsanto Co. genetically modified to thwart a voracious bug are falling prey to that very pest in a few Iowa fields, the first time a major Midwest scourge has developed resistance to a genetically modified crop. The discovery raises concerns that the way some farmers are using biotech crops could spawn superbugs. Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann's discovery that western corn rootworms in four northeast Iowa fields have evolved to resist the natural pesticide made by Monsanto's corn plant could encourage some farmers to switch to insect-proof seeds sold by competitors of the St. Louis crop biotechnology giant, and to return to spraying harsher synthetic insecticides on their fields. 'These are isolated cases, and it isn't clear how widespread the problem will become,' said Dr. Gassmann in an interview. 'But it is an early warning that management practices need to change.'...Scientists in other Farm Belt states are also looking for signs that Monsanto's Bt corn might be losing its effectiveness. Mike Gray, a University of Illinois entomologist, said he is studying rootworm beetles he collected in northwest Illinois earlier this month from fields where Monsanto's Bt-expressing corn had suffered extensive rootworm damage."
Monsanto Corn Plant Losing Bug Resistance
Wall St Journal, 29 August 2011

"Farmers in the state's south are resorting to some old-fashioned tactics. Weeds in cotton fields have gotten so tenacious — some with stems 4-inches around — that farmers are paying itinerant crews to chop them down by hand. 'In the Bootheel they're hiring people to go out there with hoes,' said Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau. 'I swung a hoe for 15 years, and I fail to see the romance in it.' The problem, farmers and weed scientists say, is getting worse: Weeds are becoming increasingly resistant to Monsanto's Roundup, sold generically as glyphosate, forcing farmers to use other herbicides or 'multiple modes of action.' But during this season especially farmers are finding that these other modes of action aren't working either — and there appears to be little relief on the horizon. In Missouri, herbicide dealers have sold out of Cobra, one of the herbicides most widely used in tandem with glyphosate. 'Are they running out of options?' asked Aaron Hager, a weed scientist with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 'The simple answer is yes.' Farmers across the Midwest and South are, increasingly, using herbicide cocktails to combat weeds in cotton, corn and soybean fields. 'They're using about every bullet they have in their gun,' said Derek Samples, a dealer with Agro Distribution in Portageville, about 150 miles south of St. Louis. 'It's just been a nasty year.' That worries environmental scientists who say these combinations employ older, more toxic herbicides that glyphosate was marketed to replace. In some areas of the state, certain weeds have become resistant to three herbicides. In Illinois, some weeds have become resistant to four."
Resistant weeds leave farmers desperate
St Louis Post-Dispatch, 17 July 2011

"Using genetic engineering to endow corn with protection against pesky weeds and insects was supposed to cut back on use of agricultural chemicals and the risk they pose to the environment. But the recently released report on 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use from the National Agricultural Statistics Service carries at least one major twist on the pesticide pattern in Nebraska. Even as use of the popular weed killer atrazine held close to the level it was at for corn in 2003, the glyphosate option more commonly known as Roundup has gone from about 1.25 million pounds in 2003 to almost 3 million pounds in 2005 and to 7.1 million pounds last year. The major spike means more farmers have been choosing corn varieties that carry resistance to Roundup and other products with glyphosate as their active ingredient in the seed sack. That makes them a biotechnology tool in a weed-killing approach in which the chemical can then attack both grass and broad-leaf invaders without hurting the corn. But as McCool Junction crop consultant Bill Dunavan and other weed-wise observers in Nebraska know, Roundup has not held on to its reputation for being the only herbicide treatment farmers would need for the whole growing season. In fact, resistance to glyphosate has been showing up in such common invaders as mare's tail, and atrazine remains a prominent second treatment in the weed arsenal to combat resistance -- and to keep more weeds from becoming resistant.... The 2010 report put total Nebraska pounds at about 5.5 million, down from 7 million in 1997. But atrazine use on corn was as high as 7.4 million pounds as recently as 2005..... Lowell Sandell, a weed science specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said earlier claims that biotechnology would dramatically cut chemical use have not proven especially true on the weed side. 'I would suspect that the whole level, the total level of use, would be roughly similar,' Sandell said. 'The biggest shift has been from non-Roundup ready crops to Roundup ready crops'. The university strongly backs the idea of using more than one strategy to control weeds, he said. Roundup is 'a very good product, but with the development of glyphosate-resistant weed species, one of the things the university always tries to promote is an integrated management approach -- which is multiple effective means of action.' Randy Pryor, based in Wilber as an NU Extension educator, said Nebraska is certainly not the only place where resistant weeds are turning up. 'Other states are documenting other weeds that are now truly resistant to Roundup,' Pryor said."
Insecticide usage down, herbicides not so much
Lincoln Star Journal (Nebraska), 29 May 2011

"According to the 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use Report released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), use of the herbicide glyphosate, associated with genetically engineered (GE) crops, has dramatically increased over the last several years, while the use of other even more toxic chemicals such as atrazine has not declined. Contrary to common claims from chemical manufacturers and proponents of GE technology that the proliferation of herbicide tolerant GE crops would result in lower pesticide use rates, the data show that overall use of pesticides has remained relatively steady, while glyphosate use has skyrocketed to more than double the amount used just five years ago. The 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use Report shows that, in the states surveyed, 57 million pounds of glyphosate were applied last year on corn fields. Ten years prior, in 2000, this number was only 4.4 million pounds, and in 2005, it was still less than half of current numbers at 23 million pounds. Intense corn growing regions have experienced an even greater increase in glyphosate applications. Glyphosate use in the state of Nebraska increased by more than five times in just seven years, going from 1.25 million pounds applied in 2003 to more than seven million pounds last year. GE proponents have often said that, even if farmers are increasingly reaching for glyphosate, this simply means that they are using less of more toxic weed killers like atrazine. However, the data tell a different story. In 2000, 54 million pounds of atrazine were applied across surveyed states. With glyphosate use increasing by more than five times between 2000 and 2005, atrazine use should have significantly declined over this period. However, the total pounds applied actually increased by more than three million, to 57.4 million total pounds applied across surveyed states in 2005. By 2010, atrazine use had just barely declined, with 51 million pounds still being applied, only slightly less than the 57 million pounds of glyphosate applied. Such widespread use of atrazine is a concern due to the chemical’s links with serious human health effects, including birth defects and disruption of the endocrine and reproductive systems. Additionally, it is a major threat to wildlife as it can harm the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic species. The rise in glyphosate applications has almost certainly come as a result of farmers increasingly planting GE crops such as corn and soybeans, which are engineered to be resistant to the chemical....Coupled with the dramatic rise in glyphosate applications has been the spread of wild plant species that are resistant to the herbicide. Over-application and over-reliance by farmers on glyphosate to solve all of their weed problems has led to the proliferation of so-called “superweeds” which have evolved to survive the treatments through repeated exposure. The most common species which have evolved these traits include pigweed (palmer amaranth), mare’s tail, and ryegrass. The spread of resistance is what has led farmers to increasingly rely on more toxic alternative mixtures including weed killers like atrazine. There has also been an increased push by chemical companies to engineer seed varieties that are resistant to multiple herbicide treatments, such as glyphosate and 2,4-D, or glyphosate and acetochlor."
Despite Industry Claims, Herbicide Use Fails to Decline with GE Crops
Beyond Pesticides, 3 June 2011

"US scientists claim to have discovered a dangerous new plant disease linked to genetically modified crops and the pesticides used on them. The research, which is yet to be completed, suggests the pathogen could be the cause of recent widespread crop failure and miscarriages in livestock. Emeritus Professor Don Huber from Perdue University says his research shows that animals fed on GM corn or soybeans may suffer serious health problems due the pathogen. 'They’re finding anywhere from 20 per cent to as much as 55 per cent of those [animals] will miscarriage or spontaneously abort,' he said.  'It will kill a chicken embryo for instance in 24-48 hours.' Professor Huber says it isn’t clear yet whether it is the GM crops or the use of the pesticide glyphosate that causes the pathogen. But he says his research shows both the pesticide and the GM crops also reduce the ability of plants to absorb nutrients from the soil that are necessary for animal health.  'If you have the [GM] gene present there is a reduced efficiency for the plant to use those nutrients. 'When you put the glyphosate out then you have an additional factor to reduce the nutrient availability to the crop,' he said. Professor Huber’s concerns came to light in February this year after a private letter he wrote to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary, Tom Vilsack, was leaked to the media.  The letter requested the USDA halt plans to approve GM alfalfa for the US market until further research could be done into the threats posed by the pathogen. Following the publication of Professor Huber’s letter, the company that produces the genetically modified seeds, Monsanto, released a statement rejecting his claims."
New plant disease linked to GM crops and pesticides
ABC (Australia), 16 June 2011

"Genetically modified rice has been spreading illegally for years in China, officials have admitted, triggering a debate on a sensitive aspect of the food security plan in the world's most populous nation. Two strains of GM rice were approved for open-field experiments but not commercial sale in 2009. In January, the agriculture ministry said 'no genetically modified cereals are being grown in China' outside the test sites. But in April, an environment ministry official told the weekly Nanfang Zhoumo that a joint investigation by four government departments had found that 'illegal GM seeds are present in several provinces because of weak management'. The agriculture ministry did not respond to an AFP request for clarification. According to the website for the European Union's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, European countries found foodstuffs from China containing GM rice 115 times between 2006 and May this year. The campaign group Greenpeace says GM rice seeds have been in China since 2005, and were found at markets in Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces last year, Fang Lifeng, a Chinese agriculture specialist with the group, told AFP.... When the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, met last year, around 100 researchers wrote to deputies asking them to revoke authorizations for the use of experimental GM grains, including a strain of corn as well as the two rice types. They also demanded a public debate and clear labelling of products containing genetically modified organisms."
GM rice spreads, prompts debate in China
AFP, 15 June 2011

"A team of Indian scientists has found that genetic modification (GM) will have a detrimental effect on the growth and development of plants. This is the first time that scientists have found that the Bt gene will trigger major problems in plants like stunted growth and sterility..... the team from the laboratory of Dr Pradeep Burma in the Department of Genetics at the University of Delhi, South Campus, has found that expression of the Bt-toxin 'Cry1Ac' in cotton and tobacco is detrimental to the growth and development of those plants. The study was published in the June issue of Journal of Biosciences..... the researchers found that a majority of transgenic plants had very low or undetectable levels of Cry1Ac, and that all plants having appreciable levels of Cry1Ac showed developmental abnormalities. This indicates a correlation between the levels of Cry1Ac expression and the developmental defects in the plants. Plants release defence-related molecules to fight the toxicity induced in them through Bt technology. Though studies have not been conducted to establish whether these defence-related molecules will cause harm to human beings when they are consumed, scientists here feel that the toxins released may also be detrimental to human and animal health."
BT gene in GM crops harmful for growth
Deccan Chronicle (India), 3 June 2011

"In the past, scientific research has predicted a decrease in the effectiveness of Bt cotton due to the rise of secondary and other sucking pests. It is suspected that once the primary pest is brought under control, secondary pests have a chance to emerge due to the lower pesticide applications in Bt cotton cultivars. Studies on this phenomenon are scarce. This article furnishes empirical evidence that farmers in China perceive a substantial increase in secondary pests after the introduction of Bt cotton. The research is based on a survey of 1,000 randomly selected farm households in five provinces in China. We found that the reduction in pesticide use in Bt cotton cultivars is significantly lower than that reported in research elsewhere. This is consistent with the hypothesis suggested by recent studies that more pesticide sprayings are needed over time to control emerging secondary pests, such as aphids, spider mites, and lygus bugs. Apart from farmers’ perceptions of secondary pests, we also assessed their basic knowledge of Bt cotton and their perceptions of Bt cotton in terms of its strengths and shortcomings (e.g., effectiveness, productivity, price, and pesticide use) in comparison with non-transgenic cotton."
Benefits of Bt cotton counterbalanced by secondary pests? Perceptions of ecological change in China
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, Volume 173, Numbers 1-4, 985-994

"... one biotech company has an annual budget of $10 million dollars and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers in relation to the use of GM seeds, with over 2000 pursued in this respect in 2006 in the United States."
Control over your food: Why Monsanto's GM seeds are undemocratic
Christian Science Monitor, 23 February 2011

"China will breed its own high-yield seeds and set up large seed companies to help ensure the country's food security in coming decades. The State Council, China's cabinet, said in a statement that the world's largest grain producer aims to breed new seeds using China's own biotechnology and set up large seed-breeding bases by 2020. The country will focus development on hybrid rice and corn -- particularly corn, where Pioneer already has a large share of the market and domestic seed firms are failing to compete,' said one Chinese seed-breeding scientist. 'The government's concerns are grain security and how to boost farmers' incomes, while foreign companies will increase seed prices after they have occupied the market.'.... Scientists said genetically modified (GMO) seeds would not be a priority for Beijing for at least five years. Public debate over the safety of GMO food coupled with a long approval process meant China may not rush to use GMO seeds widely in the near term. '(Development of) non-GMO seeds will still play a key role in boosting grain production in the coming five years,' Huang Dafang, a researcher with the Biotechnology Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told Reuters in December. 'GMO technology is a long-term national strategy and not for this or the next five-year plan,' Huang said."
China to breed large seed firms, up reservoir spending
Reuters, 23 February 2011

"The Brazilian Association of Soy Producers (APROSOJA) and the Brazilian Association of Non Genetically Modified Grain Producers (ABRANGE) consider engaging the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (Cade), of the Ministry of Justice, against Monsanto. According to the two organizations, the U.S. company is restricting the access of farmers to conventional (non-GM) soybean seeds. 'They are imposing a sales ratio of 85% of GM seeds to 15% of conventional seeds. Seed production has to serve the market. You cannot monopolize or shape the market,' complained the new president of APROSOJA, Glabuer Silveira. The farming industry estimates that approximately 55% of the soybean seed planted in the country is genetically modified. Silveira said the problem is not the use of biotechnology but the withdrawal of the farmer's option to plant conventional seed. 'Monsanto has about 70% market share in Brazil. The problem is they don't have the market but that they want to shape it. We are not taking the right option.' Some producers are afraid to become dependent on the U.S. company if GM seeds dominate the market since Monsanto is entitled to royalties on biotechnology supplied to them. 'The seed producers say it's taxation by Monsanto. They are around us and by the end of the day they charge whatever they want,' says soy farmer Peter Riva, of Sorriso, Mato Grosso. Silvio Munchalack, corn and soybean producer from Nova Mutum, also in Mato Grosso, says that until a few years ago he did not plant GM soybeans, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. 'The Mato Grosso Foundation provides conventional seeds, but not for everyone. Now everything has to be GM,' says the farmer, who last season managed to buy only 40% of conventional seeds out of the total planted on his property. Besides the fear of future reliance on a single company, which has caused some producers to prefer planting conventional soybeans, is that they are becoming more profitable, primarily due to the premium European and Asian countries pay for this type of product. The executive director of ABRANGE, Ricardo de Souza Tatesuzi, complains of abuse of economic power and lack of transparency in the collection of royalties. 'The invoice does not show they are charging royalties. The patent law allows them to charge whatever they want.'"
Monsanto restricts access to non-GM seeds
Agência Brasil, 18 May 2010

"Larry Steckel's PowerPoint photos send an uneasy murmur through the crowd. The University of Tennessee Extension weed specialist has returned to his native state of Illinois to explain how Southern growers are managing glyphosate-resistant weeds. Most of the farmers, crop consultants and custom applicators in the room are familiar with the topic. Still, Steckel's photos of wagons heaped high with hand-plucked Palmer amaranth are an attention grabber. They resemble those gag postcards you find in gas stations that brag of giant potatoes or monster carrots. Weed resistance is no joke, however, and weed-choked fields have become all too common the past few years, Steckel maintains. 'Palmer pigweed is so bad in some areas that growers have resorted to hand-weeding at a cost of $50 to $100 per acre. Some cotton fields have been completely abandoned,' he says. Perhaps more disturbing is Steckel's observation that the waterhemp outbreaks in southern Illinois this past summer remind him of Tennessee only four years ago, before resistant weeds went wild.'The first year you have glyphosate resistance on your farm is when it costs you the most because it is usually too late to do anything by the time you figure it out. There's nothing that will control 10" to 12" Palmer or waterhemp if glyphosate fails,' he says..... Steckel says the first defensive step is to recognize that glyphosate resistance is real. 'The total postemergence era is over and it is never coming back,' he says. 'A pre-emergence product is a necessity, and in many cases we also have to put down an early post application that provides residual control and is followed by another post application, or we have a mess.' Depending on the summer, Tennessee can experience three generations of Palmer amaranth in one season.... Steckel says operating loans and cash rents are beginning to reflect the increased cost of weed management and added herbicides. 'Conventional soybeans are picking up a bit,' he says. 'We experienced shortages in some herbicides last year. For the first time, I'm seeing growers back off on acres because they aren't sure they can be timely with herbicide applications.'"
Weeds Gone Wild
Farm Journal, 5 January 2011

"GeneWatch UK today welcomed news that new drought-tolerant corn (maize) has been developed by DuPont using conventional breeding methods. DuPont's new corn was announced today. Syngenta made a similar announcement in late December. Its corn was also developed using conventional breeding informed by new genetic information (known as 'marker assisted selection'). 'Improved scientific knowledge has helped deliver better seeds" said GeneWatch UK's Director, Dr Helen Wallace. 'Drought-tolerance is a complex trait and cannot be delivered by engineering a single gene into a plant. The false promises made for GM crops should be abandoned in favour of these welcome new conventionally bred varieties'. However, GeneWatch criticised Syngenta for stating that it will only market its new seed with two existing GM traits (herbicide tolerance and pesticide resistance) also included in the seed. US farmers are struggling to cope with herbicide tolerant 'superweeds' spreading across the US as a result of growing GM herbicide tolerant crops. Pest resistance is also developing as a result of the use of GM pest resistant crops. 'Patents on these GM traits will allow Syngenta to charge a premium for technology that does more harm than good', said Dr Wallace. 'This is a cynical attempt to lock farmers into spiralling costs for expensive seeds and chemicals instead of making the new conventional variety widely available'. Genetically modified (GM) plants with new properties including drought- and salt-tolerance and the ability to fix nitrogen were first promised in a US Office of Technology Assessment report in 1981. Agricultural research was reorganised to focus on GM and companies were allowed to patent GM seeds. However, no such products have been delivered despite 30 years' investment in GM research, due to the multiple genetic factors involved in the survival of plants in harsh environments."
New drought-tolerant corn welcomed
GeneWatch press release, 5 January 2011

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".... if you look around and see what the world is now facing I don't think  in the last two or three hundred years we've faced such a concatenation of  problems all at the same time.....[including] the inevitability, it seems to me, of resource wars....  if we are to solve the issues that are ahead of us,
we are going to need to think in completely different ways. And the probability, it seems to me, is that the next 20 or 30 years are going to see a period of great instability... I fear the [current] era of small wars is merely the precursor, the pre-shock, for something rather larger to come... we need to find new ways to be able to live together on an overcrowded earth."
Paddy Ashdown, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina 2002 -2006

BBC Radio 4, 'Start The Week', 30 April 2007

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Academy Award Winning Film Producer David Lynch (Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, etc)
David Lynch Foundation





   

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