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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: 3, Insightful) by fido_dogstoyevsky on Tuesday August 02 2016, @01:50AM

    by fido_dogstoyevsky (131) <{axehandle} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday August 02 2016, @01:50AM (#382933)

    Not a ^w^w reason: Monsanto toys with genetics, thereby upsetting the Natural Order of Things.

    FTFY. See rabbits, cane toads, foxes, buffalos, European carp and feral goats, cats, dogs, horses (aka brumbies), pigs, camels and deer in Australia as examples of "upsetting the Natural Order of Things".

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  • (Score: 2) by Osamabobama on Tuesday August 02 2016, @04:34PM

    by Osamabobama (5842) on Tuesday August 02 2016, @04:34PM (#383187)

    I could see where one might assert that glyphosate resistant pigweed (for instance) has upset the Natural Order, but the stereotypical fear of uncontrolled spread of mutant genes has not been realized, nor does it seem likely. And if herbicide resistance is the worst we get from plant research efforts, I'll accept the trade-offs.

    All your examples are invasive species of animals. I'm not sure how those could be extended to include food crops (except that agriculture also uses non-native species, perhaps.)

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    • (Score: 2) by fido_dogstoyevsky on Tuesday August 02 2016, @10:38PM

      by fido_dogstoyevsky (131) <{axehandle} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday August 02 2016, @10:38PM (#383385)

      I could see where one might assert that glyphosate resistant pigweed (for instance) has upset the Natural Order, but the stereotypical fear of uncontrolled spread of mutant genes has not been realized

      ...yet. Or herbicide resistant canola or soybean.

      All your examples are invasive species of animals. I'm not sure how those could be extended to include food crops (except that agriculture also uses non-native species, perhaps.)

      How about boneseed, Patterson's curse, mimosa, prickly pear, boxthorn, gorse, serrated tussock, water hyacinth and bamboo? As invasive flora.

      I'm not saying gengineering should not happen. I am saying that private for profit organistions should not be allowed anywhere near it for now (probably the next half to one and a half centuries).

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