The dicamba conundrum

July 2018

Despite the host of problems presented by the expanded use of dicamba herbicide last year [1], the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cut a deal to allow the chemical's continued application. Monsanto was "very excited" by the EPA's decision.

This excitement isn't surprising because dicamba is vital to the Company's next generation of GM soya. Now that weed resistance to Roundup is rendering Monsanto's Roundup Ready GM soya obsolete, future fortunes are depending on dicamba tolerance technology as a replacement.

The greening of unsold GM papaya?

July 2018

Shoe-horning your agriculture into the modern high-input, energy-hungry globalised system is particularly problematic for remote areas. Even Hawaii - American soil but a long way from the mainland - has realised it has an economic imperative for self-sufficient and sustainable resource management.

Knotty DNA

July 2018

When you think of 'DNA', the odds are you picture the famous double helix: a neat ladder-like structure made of two strings of nucleic acid (NA) molecules each holding hands with its partner on the opposite string, and elegantly twisted like a corkscrew. Extending this ladder with an extra section, chopping out a bit, changing rung or two, or even adding in a whole extra ladder, is proving increasingly easy to engineer.

At the same time, it's becoming increasingly clear that DNA doesn't always sit in the form of a pretty helix.

Living DNA is a highly responsive and dynamic structure [1,2]. The ladder is stable, but to transition to an active form, the two halves come apart. The strings of nucleic acids can then hold hands in all different ways to form hair-pins or even three- or four-stranded pleats, with bulges and loops.

Too much trade is bad for you

July 2018

Once upon a time, trade was a mutual give-and-take which promised lasting prosperity for both partners; and with prosperity would come well-being.

The modern way redefines 'prosperity' in terms of ever-expanding trade whose boundaries are global. Now, 'trade' has winners and losers, and the 'well-being' part is nowhere.

Let there BE labels on genetically modified food

July 2018
'Genetically engineered food' has never sounded like something anyone would rush to eat, and frankly "If you put a label on (it) you might as well put a skull-and-crossbones on it" (Asgrow Seed Company President 1994).
So, how do you sell genetically engineered food to the public?

What glyphosate has achieved in Argentina

June 2018

While the agrichemical and biotech industries insist their products are SAFE when used as directed, and regulators can't seem to figure out whose interests (the people's or industry's) to prioritise, what's happening in the real world where people have to live with the chemicals and the GMOs?

Befuddled bees

June 2018

The two most widely used pesticides in agriculture, especially on GM crops, are neonicotinoid insecticides and glyphosate-based herbicides. These have become the preferred choice due to their effectiveness as they spread systemically through the plant, and to their low toxicity in mammals.

Inevitably, traces of both are likely to be found together in the same plant where our pollinators will be exposed to them.

Indeed, analyses have shown neonicotinoid and glyphosate contamination not only in the nectar and pollen collected by honey bees but in their honey stores inside the hive. This means all bees, at all stages in their life will be exposed to both toxins.

Although neither pesticide causes instant bee death, increasing concerns are focusing on the possibility of more subtle, long-term and indirect effects on bee behaviour which will ultimately lead to the collapse of the colony [1].