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posted by martyb on Monday August 01 2016, @08:27PM   Printer-friendly
from the unintended-consequences dept.

The early release of a variety of soybeans resistant to the herbicide dicamba has led to criminal spraying and the death of normal soybean crops:

Dicamba has been around for decades, and it is notorious for a couple of things: It vaporizes quickly and blows with the wind. And it's especially toxic to soybeans, even at ridiculously low concentrations. Damage from drifting pesticides isn't unfamiliar to farmers. But the reason for this year's plague of dicamba damage is unprecedented. "I've never seen anything like this before," says Bob Scott, a weed specialist from the University of Arkansas. "This is a unique situation that Monsanto created."

The story starts with Monsanto because the St. Louis-based biotech giant launched, this year, an updated version of its herbicide-tolerant soybean seeds. This new version, which Monsanto calls "Xtend," isn't just engineered to tolerate sprays of glyphosate, aka Roundup. It's also immune to dicamba.

Monsanto created dicamba-resistant soybeans (and cotton) in an effort to stay a step ahead of the weeds. The strategy of planting Roundup-resistant crops and spraying Roundup to kill weeds isn't working so well anymore, because weeds have evolved resistance to glyphosate. Adding genes for dicamba resistance, so the thinking went, would give farmers the option of spraying dicamba as well, which would clear out the weeds that survive glyphosate. There was just one hitch in the plan. A very big hitch, as it turned out. The Environmental Protection Agency has not yet approved the new dicamba weedkiller that Monsanto created for farmers to spray on its new dicamba-resistant crops. That new formulation of dicamba, according to Monsanto, has been formulated so that it won't vaporize as easily, and won't be as likely to harm neighboring crops. If the EPA approves the new weedkiller, it may impose restrictions on how and when the chemical may be used.

But, Monsanto went ahead and started selling its dicamba-resistant soybeans before this herbicide was approved. It gave farmers a new weed-killing tool that they couldn't legally use.

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by captain normal on Monday August 01 2016, @09:29PM

    by captain normal (2205) on Monday August 01 2016, @09:29PM (#382838)

    The ironic thing in all this is that Palmer amaranth is basically the North American genus of Quinoa. It is of the same order and family. Chenopodium quinoa is visually nearly identical to Amaranthus palmeri. Like quinoa pigweed produces huge amount of seeds. It is drought tolerant and grows well in poor soil (in fact if grown in soil too rich in nitrogen, it become poisonous to some livestock). The seeds are highly nutritious much like quinoa and it would likely provide more food per acre than soybeans without pouring on toxins and heavy fertilizers.

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  • (Score: 2) by art guerrilla on Tuesday August 02 2016, @11:55AM

    by art guerrilla (3082) on Tuesday August 02 2016, @11:55AM (#383070)

    uh, aren't you missing THE most important point: how can Big Agri and the 1% squeeze as many pennies out of us as possible if we are going outside of THEIR system of agriculture ? ? ?
    will no one think of the poor millionaires trying to be billionaires ? ? ?

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @12:38PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @12:38PM (#383098)

    Thanks captain, I think this is some of the most important information to be spreading right now. Most people do not realise that the plants we call weeds are actually more nutritious and easier to grow than the plants we call food. The entire so called green revolution and industrialised agriculture is a scam based on the fact that people do not know this.

    Pretty much everything people do on a daily basis out of fear of starvation is also based on this same little bit of missing information.