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].

Re-thinking the yield obsession

June 2018

"For the last 60 years we have been on a pesticide merry-go-round, where successive generations of pesticides are released, and a decade or two later they are banned when the environmental harm they do emerges. Each time they are replaced by something new, and each new group of chemicals brings new and unanticipated problems. Considering our intelligence, it is remarkable that we humans can keep making the same mistake over and over again" signed by 12 scientists who have spent decades studying the fragile web of insects, the environment, and the crops on which we all depend for survival. 
This merry-go-round is harming both ourselves and our environment: why can't we get off it?

Mega-pest moths

June 2018

A great deal of technical and commercial effort has been devoted to GM crops with soak themselves with their very own, self-generated 'Bt' insecticides.

Particular biotech industry targets for Bt have been cotton bollworm, a widespread pest in Africa and India, and corn earworm, a widespread pest in the Americas.

These 'worms' are actually the larvae of two related species of moth which cause billions of dollars of crop damage every year feasting on monoculture banquets.

Cotton bollworm is a particularly notorious pest, with a fast generation time, an extreme mobility, and an unusually diverse gene pool to draw on. It attacks over 100 crop types and has developed resistance to all pesticides used to try to control it. All in all, a top-class super-pest.

Superfit GM superweeds

June 2018
Protester dressed as a superweed
CC photo by Steve Rhodes on Flickr
World-wide, the big biotech success story is crops which are genetically transformed to survive glyphosate-based herbicides.

Glyphosate interferes with a plant enzyme key to the production of, for example, auxin (a plant growth hormone, also important in reproduction), lignin (woody supportive material), and defensive compounds against pests and disease. All of these are vital and are part of tightly controlled processes in a healthy plant. When glyphosate wipes out that enzyme, the weed or non-GM plant dies.

The magic gene inserted into glyphosate-tolerant crops generates a novel version of the enzyme which isn't inactivated by the herbicide. However, the expression of an artificial gene, isn't controlled. GM glyphosate-tolerant plants will therefore generate an excess of the enzyme, and this suggests that their growth, reproduction, physical robustness, and susceptibility to disease will be altered.

GM maize data mountain

June 2018

A recent article in Forbes Magazine suggested that the "mountains of scientific proof" of "how big the benefit and small the risk is from GMO crops" should "put a categorical end to (the) worries" of the apparently uninformed public in whom "GMO paranoia continues to rage".