Life & death in Monsantoland

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monsantoland

Two recent events in Monsanto-land tell it all:

Lobbyist claims Monsanto pesticide safe to drink, bolts when offered a glass. (It’s caught on a gem of a video, embedded in the story). Raw Story, 27 March 2015.

Monsanto demands World Health Organization retract report on Roundup link to cancer.  EcoWatch, 26 March 2015.

For a good dose of sanity on GMOs, hunger, and post-oil farming, check out Ann Clark, plant physiologist and farmer, in Bold ScientistsRead an excerpt here.

Meantime, pass this on.  And have a nice day.

 

 

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A victory in El Salvador: Farmers defy Monsanto

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El Salvador seedlings

The Monsanto and Dow corporations, both chemical behemoths, nearly always get their way, by a variety of means and with disastrous consequences on almost every continent. But in El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America:

“The farmers, who have already been consistently outperforming Monsanto with their local seed, which is far healthier and more productive, have just managed to bring about a giant defeat of Monsanto by preventing it   from supplying El Salvador with its seeds.”

The full story is here.

A rare victory, and an inspiring model for farmers everywhere.

 

 

New GM Crops: fields of insanity

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A definition of insanity: If something clearly doesn’t work, do it again.  And again…

TRAUDT AERIAL SERVICEPhoto: Aurora Cooperative

The corporate leviathans that brought us GM crops promised no pollen spread. Fact: Any place these invasive crops are planted they spread pollen as far as wind and bugs can carry it, making it impossible to grow non-genetically manipulated crops for miles around.

The industry promised that GM herbicide-tolerant crops would need less chemicals to suppress competing weeds. Nature laughed. Fact: Very quickly, weeds developed tolerance to the most widely used herbicide, glyphosate. The resulting ‘superweeds’ already infest an estimated 70 million acres of US farmland, and they’re spreading rapidly.  It’s being called an agricultural crisis.  Another one.

The corporate solution to the new problem: Throw more chemicals at it. No surprise, chemicals induce dependency and generate enormous profits. The pushers are pushing hard – not that it takes much pressure – to get US government approval to sell the highly toxic 2,4-D herbicide/defoliant, infamous as a weapon of mass destruction in the US war on Viet Nam.

At the same time, the industry plans to release GM crops.2, corn and soybeans genetically manipulated to tolerate repeated dousing with multiple herbicides, including 2,4-D. Details here, in Wired: http://www.wired.com/2014/09/new-gm-crops/.

For a saner path, stop in for a visit with Ann Clark, plant physiologist and post-oil farmer, in Bold Scientists, chapter 2, Digging thistles. Read an excerpt here.

Monarch butterfly in ‘grave danger’

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In late summer 2013, we saw only three or four of these beautiful butterflies in our eastern Ontario garden, a stunning loss that many other people have confirmed.  Here’s why.  It’s a sad, infuriating story of nature, science and power abused.  Deeply entwined with our own, the story of the Monarchs is bleak, but not finished.

From Andrea Germanos at the independent news site Common Dreams, on January 29, 2014:

A new report from the World Wildlife Fund and Mexico’s National Commission for Protected Areas found that the number of monarch butterflies hibernating in Mexico dropped to its lowest level since records began in 1993.

The insects make an epic journey of thousands of miles each year from Canada and the U.S. to spend November through March hibernating in Mexico’s temperate forests.

Clues that this year’s numbers would be the continuation of a troubling trend have been in for months, with the new study bringing more grim proof that the monarch is in trouble.

Using satellite and aerial photographs, the new study documented that 1.65 acres of forest were inhabited by monarchs during December of 2013, marking a 44% drop from the same time in 2012.

“Twenty years after the signing of NAFTA, the monarch butterfly migration – a symbol of cooperation between our three countries – is in grave danger,” stated Omar Vidal, WWF-Mexico Director General.

While the study focused on deforestation and forest degradation in monarch reserves that serve as their winter habitat, it points to a trio of perils contributing to declining numbers of monarchs.

There are 3 primary threats to the monarch butterfly in its range in North America: deforestation and degradation of forest by illegal logging of overwintering sites in Mexico; widespread reduction of breeding habitat in the United States due to land-use changes and the decrease of this butterfly’s main larval food plant (common milkweed [Asclepias syriaca]) associated with the use of glyphosate herbicide to kill weeds growing in genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant crops; and periodic extreme weather conditions throughout its range during the year, such as severe cold or cold summer or winter temperatures.

Other butterfly experts have pointed to these three factors as well, though Lincoln Brower, a professor of biology at Sweet Briar College who has studied the monarch migrations for decades, told the Washington Post‘s Brad Plumer that “The most catastrophic thing from the point of view of the monarch butterfly has been the expansion of crops that are planted on an unbelievably wide scale throughout the Midwest and have been genetically manipulated to be resistant to the powerful herbicide Roundup.”

Another leading scientist who has spent three decades studying the monarch, Karen Oberhauser, professor at the University of Minnesota, added to this point, saying “Numerous lines of evidence demonstrate that the Corn Belt in the U.S. Midwest is the primary source for monarchs hibernating in Mexico,” and the region has been hit by the explosive use of Roundup-resistant crops.

This has meant that milkweed, the host plant for the monarch caterpillar, is being wiped out from fields, something that Chip Ward, Director of Monarch Watch, has been documenting.

“These genetically modified crops have resulted in the extermination of milkweed from many agricultural habitats,” added Oberhauser.

Dr. Phil Schappert, a Canadian butterfly conservationist, added in a statement that “‘the economy first’ practices, instead of sustainable land use practices, threaten monarch habitat” in Canada, and urges his country and the United States to “implement measures that protect the reproductive habitat and feeding grounds of this butterfly.  Otherwise, this spiral of population decline will continue,” Schappert added.

Monarch Watch’s Ward adds, “Let’s plant milkweed – lots and lots of it.”

More on GMOs vs conservation biology in Pesky Facts: unspun science for dangerous times, from Between the Lines, autumn 2014.

(Monarch photo: Michael Riordon)

Science is objective: true or false?

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After teaching plant agriculture for 32 years at Guelph University, Associate Professor Ann Clark ‘retired’ in 2010 to a farm in eastern Ontario.  It would be her refuge and her lab.

Clark designed the farm to be “post-oil.”  Here she can try out experiments for which research Monsanto Business Incubatorfunding always eluded her.  Since neither of her teaching specialties, grasses and organic agriculture, tends to generate proprietary profits, the corporate funders that increasingly dominate research funding were not interested.

From the late 1990s on, Ann Clark became an eloquent critic of the impacts that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) can have on livestock, farm survival and the environment.  Unsought by her and unpaid, this new public role did not foster Clark’s career.  “Academic suicide, some of my colleagues called it,” she says.  “By their standards I’m not a very good scientist.”

By what standards can they judge as ‘not good’ a scientist who has inspired countless students, farmers and citizens with her knowledge and integrity?  “The problem is,” she replied, “I can’t accept one of the central tenets of their dogma: that science is objective.  When I got my PhD I fully believed that it is.  But then one of my PhD examiners backed me into a corner where I had to acknowledge that personal values will inevitably determine what questions you ask as a scientist, and the questions you ask will inevitably pre-determine the range of answers you’ll get.”

This view is powerfully confirmed by the ongoing battle over a study by French scientist Gilles-Eric Séralini & his co-researchers, on impacts of Monsanto’s genetically modified maize and its associated herbicide Roundup.

Hours after the study was published in 2012, a vicious, well-orchestrated assault erupted against Séralini.  “This is so disturbing,” says Ann Clark.  “Very often industry research doesn’t ask the right questions.  He  asked some of the right questions, and for that he’s under attack.”

In response, Clark joined with eight other scientists to publish an open letter supporting Séralini, and to “raise the profile of fundamental challenges faced by science in a world increasingly dominated by corporate influence.”  Signed by an impressive roster of scientists in many countries, the October 2012 letter cites other researchers who’ve been attacked for studies questioning GMOs and Monsanto.

Read more:

Ann Clark’s vision of post-carbon farming and food production is here:  The future is organic: But it’s more than organic!

Corporate Push for GMO Food Puts Independent Science in Jeopardy.  Vandana Shiva, The Asian Age, December 2012.

Growing Maize Disaster (in Mexico).  ETC Group, December 2012.

FDA [Food and Drug Administration, US] Quietly Pushes Through Genetically Modified Salmon.  Anthony Gucciardi, Natural Society, December 2012.