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Biotech Earth Science

First Superbugs, Now Superweeds 435

Finxray writes "Years of heavy use of the broad spectrum herbicide Roundup has led to the rapid growth of superweeds. They are spreading throughout North America, creating headaches for farmers and posing 'the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,' according to Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts. From the article: 'The first resistant species to pose a serious threat to agriculture was spotted in a Delaware soybean field in 2000. Since then, the problem has spread, with 10 resistant species in at least 22 states infesting millions of acres, predominantly soybeans, cotton and corn. The superweeds could temper American agriculture’s enthusiasm for some genetically modified crops. Soybeans, corn and cotton that are engineered to survive spraying with Roundup have become standard in American fields. However, if Roundup doesn’t kill the weeds, farmers have little incentive to spend the extra money for the special seeds."
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First Superbugs, Now Superweeds

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  • by g8orade ( 22512 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @10:17AM (#32138386)

    Generally, we just don't understand all the externalities involved.
    Hopefully, they don't lead to catastrophic circumstances.

  • Cross breeding... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iago-vL ( 760581 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @10:23AM (#32138424)

    I'm sure it doesn't help that the plants that are resistant to roundup will cross-pollinate with the weeds that are supposed to be killed with roundup, thereby making everything resistant. I remember people saying a long time ago that this would happen, and here we are!

  • by jfjfjdk ( 1260722 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @10:28AM (#32138448)
    Computer vision is more than adequate to have robots roll around a field, identify weeds, and use either thermal disruption, plucking, or extremely localized weedkiller injection (mLs) right at the base of the weed. All of these approaches are working at the research scale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSxNBwegfo8 [youtube.com] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMF7EuCAVbI [youtube.com] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtgMNj6xCkk [youtube.com] and for harvesting: http://www.optoiq.com/index/display/article-display/303062/articles/vision-systems-design/volume-12/issue-8/features/profile-in-industry-solutions/vision-system-simplifies-robotic-fruit-picking.html [optoiq.com] but with below-minimum-wage foreign labor and generic Roundup too cheap to bother, it will take legislative action to make the switch. Write your congressman.
  • Hallelujah! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @10:29AM (#32138460) Homepage Journal

    They are spreading throughout North America, creating headaches for farmers and posing 'the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,' according to Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.

    Hooray! This isn't really true, though. It's the single largest threat to so-called "green revolution" production agriculture that we have ever seen — and good riddance. Production agriculture simply means the production of food (including animal products) for sale, and hopefully, profit. The only type of agriculture threatened by pesticide-resistant weeds is that which is dependent on pesticides. This development will not affect permaculture and organic farmers, the former of which can produce more food per acre than factory farming. It requires substantially more manpower to grow crops in guilds, which essentially eliminates the opportunity for mechanical cultivation, but at a time when unemployment is at an all-time high, it seems reasonable to use manpower to solve problems. Meanwhile, the contradictorily named "green revolution" methods of using machines and chemicals to grow plants is harmful to soil, and leads to less-nutritious food overall.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2010 @10:30AM (#32138462)

    "However, if Roundup doesn’t kill the weeds, farmers have little incentive to spend the extra money for the special seeds."

    Am I the only one that read this as a good thing? Prior to Roundup farmers cross pollinated more resistant plants in order to improve them, this slow and gradual process never generated insane weeds. Monsanto has been known for a lot of shady practices anyway. Anything to discourage farmers from using their products is great.

  • old ways (Score:4, Interesting)

    by confused one ( 671304 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @10:33AM (#32138482)
    I guess we'll have to stop managing by chemistry alone and use some of the old methods again. Renaissance time for small farmers?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2010 @10:35AM (#32138508)

    and why exactly should cheaper methods be outlawed simply because you don't like them? Totally stupid, I guess you have zero experience in farming, yet another armchair expert.

  • Re:Hallelujah! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by conureman ( 748753 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @10:39AM (#32138538)

    This is only a threat to the Agri-business monopolies. The price of production should go up a bit, and allow more small farmers to compete with less capital-intensive methods. In other words, it will level the playing field. Dear God, it sounds like we need to pass a stimulus bill. Isn't Monsanto too big to fail?

  • Re:Hallelujah! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @10:43AM (#32138560) Homepage

    but at a time when unemployment is at an all-time high, it seems reasonable to use manpower to solve problems.

    Why do you think that Americans want to go back to tilling the soil? We've left it to immigrants, who feel forced by poverty to fruit-pick and such, but even they don't wish such a fate for their children. Sorry, but backbreaking work in the fields is not seen as progress by any developing or developed country. If farming with modern techniques is an evil, it's still preferable to mankind having to do more work for less benefit. Much of my family right now is dealing with unemployment, but there are certain jobs they will not stoop to because it contradicts everything that was promised about life in today's high-tech world getting steadily more leisurely.

    Meanwhile, the contradictorily named "green revolution" methods ... leads to less-nutritious food overall.

    The scientific community overwhelmingly denies that your precious organic food is any more nutritious. But I'm sure people just looking at the plain-as-day lab results are all puppets of a shadowy corporate conspiracy, eh?

  • Re:Hallelujah! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @10:54AM (#32138632) Homepage Journal

    There is, of course, the bijou issue-ette that organic farming produces substantially less product per acre, meaning you need a hell of a lot more space to grow the same amount of food. Meanwhile, population (and hence demand for food) is growing.

    Permaculture, a type of organic farming, can produce more food per acre than factory farming. Further, a great deal of food goes to waste today. What we really need to improve the quality of food and the efficiency of food production is more point-of-use production of food, so that it doesn't have to travel so far. Up to 50% of a typical produce shipment across the country will end up as waste due to spoilage in transit alone. You need either more space or more workers, but we do have more workers. Unemployment is off the hook.

    Even if you did need more space, it would still be true that factory farming is unsustainable. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that fertilizing crops with petroleum has serious negative repercussions. It does take someone who knows something about farming to understand the full negative impact of factory farming, however. When you run machines over soil you create hardpan which causes problems with soil drainage, leading to anaerobic conditions which breed harmful bacteria, also killing off beneficials. When you spray artificial fertilizers and pesticides on it, you kill biological components of the soils including fungal mycelium, beneficial bacteria, and nematodes. Healthy topsoil is over 60% organic matter, and as much as 40% of living soil may be made up of living components. "Green revolution" farming destroys healthy soil, and turns it into a sterile hydroponic growth medium which literally cannot be used to produce food without providing all of the food that the plant needs. Organic foods have also been shown to have higher nutrient content than processed foods; it is believed that this is in part due to the ability of healthy soil to provide nutrients needed by plants. In organic gardening, you feed the soil, not the plant. Of course, another part is that organic gardeners are harvesting by hand and typically delivering product closer to home, and thus they are free to grow varieties other than those which may be easily handled by machine and shipped long distances.

    Nature never grows plants in monocultures like this. Even a redwood forest (redwoods are very good at suppressing competing plants) has an understory. In nature, plants tend to grow in groups of the same or similar plants, each plant providing something that its neighbors need. This arrangement is known as a guild in permaculture, and it is indeed one of the primary bases of the concept. The classic example is the "three sisters [wikipedia.org]" of corn, beans, and squash; the corn provides a trellis for the beans, the beans fix nitrogen for the corn and the squash, and the squash provides shade which reduces water loss and suppresses competitors — i.e. weeds. In such an arrangement, yields are increased as compared to growing monocultural rows which invite mass invasions of pests and which require liberal applications of chemicals to operate. However, such plantings cannot be harvested mechanically with the means currently at our disposal, robotics being perhaps on the cusp of being able to do this economically, but not quite actually being there. Or in short, everything is inferior about "green revolution" farming save for profit.

  • Re:Cross breeding... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @11:01AM (#32138672) Homepage Journal

    And that generally holds true. One thing I learned in biology (college) was that plants rarely pay attention to silly human rules. If they did, things such as grafted trees just wouldn't exist (the graft would die).

    You know, trees clone themselves by dropping pointy branches in the mud, but I'm pretty damned sure they don't graft themselves. They have a hard time wrapping the tape. I suppose it's not impossible but I'd really have to see an example :)

  • Re:Weed... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @11:04AM (#32138692) Journal

    "Years of heavy use of the broad spectrum herbicide Roundup has led to the rapid growth of superweeds".

    Quick..someone mix this "Superweed" with normal weed! They wont be able to make that illegal! We can't be stopped!

    It's already happening. Albeit with coca plants.
    And the kicker? The new plants have 4x the potency of non-resistant strains.

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.11/columbia_pr.html [wired.com]
    http://news.scotsman.com/latestnews/New-super-strain-of-coca.2559109.jp [scotsman.com]

  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @11:10AM (#32138742) Homepage Journal

    and why exactly should cheaper methods be outlawed simply because you don't like them?

    Wow, master of the loaded question that contains its own answer, are we?

    And while we're at it, why should we ban lead from paint? Or arsenic from drinking water? Lets just allow big companies to poison us all, then we can buy medicine from them to feel better later on, it'll be fine! The important thing is to maximize profits.

  • by BCW2 ( 168187 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @11:15AM (#32138782) Journal
    This is why there is a case involving Monsanto's GM alfalfa going to the Supreme Court this term. An Idaho farmer wants to know how Monsanto can keep their product from infecting his "organic" crop.
    Many people are afraid of possible side effects of the coming "frankenfoods". Since it is impossible to control pollen travel, the Idaho case will be interesting.
  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @11:29AM (#32138934) Homepage

    Yeah, it seems they are doing something right, if they manage to remain sustainable while at the same time having quite decent standard of living.

    But this, unfortunatelly, leads to a sad conclusion - societies and nations can act responsibly, in those matters, mostly only when they are forced to... :/

  • by lerxstz ( 692089 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @11:43AM (#32139042)
    No, he had been saving and replanting his own seed for generations. Once his field was contaminated by monsanto's patented abominations (through no fault of his own) suddenly monsanto declared him a criminal.

    An iPhone is not the same as seed.

    What most people don't realize is that monsanto is not only patenting GM seed (which is bad enough; they have bought up hundreds of seed companies, closed them down and eliminated the seed. They replace the freely saveable seed with their own patented seed), but they have the audacity to patent regular seed. They go into public seed banks, searching through thousands upon thousands of seeds, looking for ones that haven't been patented yet and patent them. How can they get away with this you ask? Who gives them the right to co-opt a food source and claim it as theirs? Twisted patent laws and corrupt trade deals that's how. Large multi-national corporations influencing government legislation that's how.

    Monsanto does need to die. See "The World according to Monsanto [films.nfb.ca]" for a detailed insight into the obscenity known as Monsanto. Also google around for "Seed Politics" and see for yourself why this needs to be stopped.
  • Nobody Ever Learns (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:11PM (#32139264) Homepage

    In the 50's, my mom was a nurse, and the most powerful weapon the hospital had at the time were the penicillins. It was a miracle, and it saved hundreds of people in the hospital she worked in.

    But mom saw the danger. She warned the doctors, "Don't overuse them, the bugs will get used to it." She used to pester the doctors about it non-stop, but she was a woman and a nurse. What did she know? She also warned them that using too much would wipe out all the good bugs and make things worse for the patient.

    Sure enough, one patient got overdosed and their gut flora were wiped out. After trying to figure out what to do with a patient that was dying of starvation and dehydration from the lack of good gut bugs, they gave them "shit soup" through a nasal tube. The doctors were "amazed" at their recovery. Duh?!

    Mom watched the doctors start prescribing antibiotics for everything. By the time she left in the late sixties, she was already seeing antibiotic resistant staph that plowed through penicillin like it was candy.

    Dad was a landscaper, and he saw the same thing with weed killers, fertilizers and bug spray. Sure, it killed the weeds one year, but they always came back, stronger than before. It used to be you could wipe out all the Japanese beetles in the cherry tree with half an ounce of Malathion in two gallons of water, and the stench wasn't so bad. Now you have to use two, sometimes three ounces, since only a half ounce made the bugs stoned, but little else. And lemme tell you, Southampton mosquitoes are among some of the most heavily sprayed, since the rich people don't like getting bitten.

    Now they're impossible to kill.

    We've known about this for at least 75 years or more, we've just chosen to ignore it because it's easier and more profitable to think in the short term, and hope the bill never comes.

    Well guess what. The bill is on the table, and now we gotta cough up.

  • by Lars T. ( 470328 ) <Lars.Traeger@goo ... Ncom minus berry> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:28PM (#32139394) Journal

    I dislike Monsanto as much as the average Slashdotter, but I dislike revisionism too. The farmer tested patches of his crop with Roundup and harvested and replanted those plants which were resistant. He had to have known what the farmers around him were testing, so he was willfully stealing, according to the court.

    Gee, that conclusion reeks of Creationism - only Monsanto could have created Roundup resistance, Natural Selection need not apply.

    Not to mention the fact that the goal of creating the crop in the first place was of course to boost sales of Roundup, which obviously worked with the farmer in question.

  • Re:Hallelujah! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:48PM (#32139554) Homepage Journal

    If this were true then every farmer would be doing it. There is no economic incentive to use a less efficient method of farming out of spite for the environment.If this were true then every farmer would be doing it.

    Indeed, most small farmers who have not gone organic (or to some other value-add, such as a prepared product based on their produce) are facing economic ruin. But only large agribusiness is able to make money by hiring large numbers of illegals and having them deported without themselves facing penalties, for example; only large agribusiness is able to amass the large quantities of flat land necessary to profitably machine-cultivate crops in today's market; large agribusiness collects the lion's share of [unnecessary] farm subsidies, which make their mode of operation profitable.

    There is no economic incentive to use a less efficient method of farming out of spite for the environment.

    What is efficient about throwing away our best compost (human feces) by expensively processing it and dumping it into waterways which are then used as a source of drinking water again downstream, while meanwhile pumping sequestered carbon out of the ground and turning it into pesticides and fertilizer, then using still more of this sequestered carbon to make fuels which are then burned in the process of moving machines around to spray these chemicals on the fields? When you examine the system, our current mode is almost as inefficient as you could imagine.

  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @01:05PM (#32139684)

    There are quite a few comment being posted by people who clearly aren't farmers and don't have a real clue as to where their food comes from. In fact several folks express a deep ignorance, which I could excuse, but then they go on to make claims and call for action. As a medium-scale farmer myself, I feel like I know enough about the issues to reply accurately. In no particular order, I state a few points.

    1. Farmers are price takers. In other words, if you want to change agriculture, you have to do it on the demand side of the equation. If you think that raising costs for farmers will change behavior, you are wrong; that will merely drive farmers out of business. Instead maybe try to figure out why the price of food in the supermarket seems to have no relation to the commodity prices farmers are paid. Near as I can tell, the amount of wheat in a loaf of bread is pennies. Yet a loaf of bread is running at $3 in some places. If the current food prices trickled down to farmers, they could more easily absorb the increased cost of certain herbicide regulations, etc.

    2. Unless you want to condemn billions of people to death, world food production has to double over the next 15 years, according to most forecasters. The only way I can see to do this is by trying to develop more environmentally sustainable methods of high-intensity farming that reduce our reliance on herbicides. As well I agree with Louise Fresco who thinks that agriculture can and should be done on rooftops and balconies in cities everywhere. Or maybe even city parks. Get city folks more involved with the food production process.

    3. Permaculture and other similar ideas are good ones, but they don't scale very well in our economy, and forcing it through regulation won't work either (see #1). Currently just a few percent of the world's population now provide food for the rest and this number is dropping because of tremendous economic pressures placed on farmers. In other words farm life is a lot more strenuous that city life, and commodity prices have been pushed (by you, the city folk) to historic lows. Only the largest operators now remain. If you are willing to pay between even more for your food, perhaps more small permaculture farms would pop up.

    4. Contributing to #2, European and American subsidies are having a tremendous negative impact on food production around the world. These subsidies keep the prices artificially low, effectively eliminating all but subsistence agriculture in Africa, and promoting the use of herbicides on a mass scale across the developed world. At the same time the subsides are promoting the practices that bring about the problems mentioned in the article. Indeed write your congressmen or EU parliamentarian on this one and demand that subsidies be removed.

    5. Computer vision and herbicides only really work well in the practice of fallowing. It's easy to spot something green amongst a fallow field that's all brown, and spray it. And even there the cost of such a system is quite prohibitive still, so it hasn't reached the actual market yet. Computer vision in the fruit industry has little bearing on the issues of roundup resistant weeds in the article. The main food crops are cereals, legumes, and oilseeds. In these cases, weed control by vision is a lot harder as at the early stages it is hard even for a human to discern between a weed and a crop plant. It's not at all like an orchard. Crops are seeded in narrow rows, but the rows themselves are not little lines; we try to spread the seed out get get better germination and better growth. Thus weed and crop plants can be anywhere in 6-inch wide strips, the average distance between each strip's center is between 6 and 10", typically (we're not talking about row crops here).
    I am a CS major and follow computer vision developments. We're just not there yet. So there's nothing to write Congress about yet. Hopefully that will change in the future.

    6. Tillage is the number one reason we now have the overall weed proble

  • Re:Hallelujah! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by epte ( 949662 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @01:20PM (#32139798)

    It's a paradigm shift that has yet to happen. Where industrial farmers think of profit, permaculturists think of standard of living. Where industrial farmers try to raise one plant in isolation (and all the extra scaffolding of pesticides, fertilizers, and such that go with that), permaculturists try to raise self-sustaining ecologies that have human-usable outputs. Where industrial farmers plant annuals (high input), permaculturists plant self-seeding annuals or perennials (low input). Where industrial farmers leverage economies of scale through machines that reduce yield per acre through compaction (among other things), permaculturists instead leverage high yields per acre through unmechanized efforts that cannot be easily scaled up. The industrial method of having one farmer provide most everyone's food is at odds with a more sustainable approach of everyone harvesting from their own smallholdings.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2010 @01:31PM (#32139884)

    Willfully stealing? That's just not the right word.

    Sure, he replanted seeds, but it's not like he broke into the Monsanto store and ran off with a wheelbarrow of new seeds from them. He replanted seeds from plants growing on his own property. If Monsanto can't control how nature spreads their IP, then Monsanto shouldn't continue to have any claim to that IP. Once their pollen or seeds blew onto his property and grew there by accident, the plants became his, and their genetic makeup should not change that. He should have the right to breed them as much as he wants and however selectively he wants. He's not stealing; he's just making the best of acts of nature and chance.

  • Re:Hallelujah! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @01:38PM (#32139960) Homepage Journal

    When I've priced organic foods vs. non-organic foods, it's often times about twice the price.

    Try googling for the concept of "agricultural subsidy" for a good part of the explanation. One of the reasons that corporate farming is cheap is that you're paying for part of it through your taxes, which in turn get handed to the ag corporations as subsidies.

    Of course, sometimes there are good reasons for such subsidies. Agriculture has a lot of risks, and farms without government support tend to go bankrupt after a bad year. But such support has a tendency to go to the biggest farm corporations, for reasons that are well known. Government actions can sometimes help by evening out year-to-year money fluctuations, but they can also produce extreme market distortions when you get the usual feedback loops of campaign contributions + subsidy programs + large corporate farms.

    A well-documented example in the US is the widespread use of cheap corn syrup in the food industry. The low price is due to corn-growing subsidies, which allows the big farms to sell their corn (and the stalks used to produce the syrup) very cheaply. Producers of the other ("minor") sweeteners can't compete, because they don't get such subsidies. Except for the large sugar-beet growers, of course, who also get a subsidy.

    (Warning: This is a very complex subject that can't be covered in a few paragraphs of sound bites. Be prepared for a lot of reading, much of which is written more with the aim of persuading rather than informing you ... ;-)

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:49PM (#32140534) Homepage

    Nobody said they are an ideal society. Doesn't mean they aren't doing something very right as far as topic of discussion goes. Of course it's even more sad if specifically their kind of society is the thing especially suited to make humans act responsibly, long-term...

    And please, it's quite well established that the data going into their HDI is pretty much correct; some nationals can easily visit Cuba, you know...

  • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:59PM (#32140608) Homepage

    It is unacceptable to kill humans. It is however acceptable to reduce our birth rate to beneath our death rate -- something which has already occurred in industrialized nations.

    Unfortunately, if you decrease your national birth rate for enough generations or very rapidly (ie over 50 or so years) you will soon see an increasing death rate: the population age levels will either be unsustainable (ie too many older people) or you will be invaded and conquered by a more populous and less concerned nation.

    (See: Mexico and the US; much of Arabia and Africa and Eastern Europe.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2010 @04:05PM (#32141048)

    Those of us who don't use GMOs, herbicides, pesticides and feed antibiotics are benefiting from the failings of these systems. We have crops and management that already deals with weeds, pests and such. I don't feel sorry in the slightest for those who are hurt by the failure of these modern 'tools' that have turned on their creators and users.

    -Another Real Farmer
    Using Traditional Old Style Farming

  • by MurphyZero ( 717692 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @04:33PM (#32141230)
    Since Monsanto sues anyone who grows anything with that genetic code for patent infringement, and no one else is selling the weeds, it is obvious that Monsanto is responsible for the weeds. The farmers should sue as they clearly asked for soybeans not weeds.
  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @05:43PM (#32141800)

    Hm. I only buy food from farmers I trust, and I avoid GM foods like the plague. I'll happily pay more for organic and grass-fed. The farmers I know who use sensible tactics are very well-educated and scientifically aware people; there's a lot of very new knowledge available. I actually attended a lecture just on the subject of soil and the various micro-organisms living in it and the complimentary/interdependent roles played by such. One of the speakers presented state of the art biological science in fungus research which pretty much blew my mind; apparently there is a type of fungus which has a long-standing evolutionary relationship with certain plants; when it infects those crops, yields are increased by as much as 40%, and this knowledge is only a few years old and expanding at a furious pace. We live in pretty exciting times, but one has to have the time/energy/will to seek and implement the knowledge available.

    In any case, I don't see any family farms declaring bankruptcy around here, but it takes local farm markets supported by educated populations to make that possible. On the other hand, I HAVE seen entire revenue streams move away from large distribution centers to smaller scale community-based distribution. I realize it's not like that in many places, but in those places where it is, it seems to work with increasing efficiency and success.

    Also. . , I've seen enough science and done my own tests re GM foods to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are causing harm. Morgellon's Disease, I suspect, may be related to GMO's and the effects they have upon human DNA.

    Sadly, the world has been set up to starve and live on poisoned food. An ugly state of affairs, no doubt, but one I choose not to participate in the experience of if I can avoid it personally!


  • by gmrath ( 751453 ) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @12:12AM (#32144230)

    I heard somewhere that farmers who plant Monsanto soybeans (for example) were under contract to harvest all acreage and not hold back seed stock to plant next year under pain of litigation. That way you had to purchase next year's crop from the "company store." Farmers traditionally reserved some of this year's harvest to plant next year - like farmers have done for hundreds and hundreds of years. But not now, since Monsanto will sue the crap out of farmers that plant Monsanto-patented seeds and hold back enough for next year's planting. Monsanto actively spot checks farms, has sued and prevailed both in court and by the thread of onerous legal fees for defense, driving any number of small family farmers into bankruptcy or out of farming altogether. Nice, Monsanto. Intellectual Property.

    Too bad the case to be heard by the Supreme Court will be viewed by the Court very narrowly: did the farmer knowingly harvest - and save for next year - seeds suspected to be from plants cross pollinated from Monsanto IP protected plants? The farmer will lose his appeal and the Supreme Court will dodge the issue of Monsanto's - or other companies marketing GM organisms - business practices.

    Note that the current administration has brought on board in a variety of positions in the Department of Agriculture and other agencies lots for former Monsanto lawyers. And MPAA lawyers. And no doubt other corporations' former counsel. These folks are going to be making policy decisions that benefit . . . who? You and me and the public interest?

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas