Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Monsanto's new (temporarilty) herbicide-proof crops got through regulatory 'loophole,' critic says

Resistance to weed killers forces farmers to hire weed
cutters. (Photo by Brad Luttrell, Commercial Appeal)
"To counter a 'super weed' epidemic plaguing farmers, agribusiness giant Monsanto is steadily moving forward on the introduction of its next major wave of genetically engineered crops," Robert Holly reports for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Critics concerned about the environmental and sustainability "argue that step forward is actually a substantial leap back."

"Propelled by recent U.S. Department of Agriculture deregulation," Monsanto is preparing to market soybean and cotton seeds that will produce plants immune to dicamba, "an infrequently used herbicide that weeds have not caught up with yet" in developing resistance to herbicides, Holly writes.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service "determined in its impact statement that the deregulation of new genetically engineered crops would likely result in an increased development of weeds resistant to dicamba," Holly reports. "The agency found that the soybean and cotton do not pose a direct plant pest risk alone, but that their overuse would repeat the same problem that happened with glyphosate and the early Roundup Ready crops," which led to the development of weeds resistant to Roundup, Monsanto's brand name for glyphosate. "But since it is tasked with identifying direct plant pests and not indirect consequences, the agency settled on deregulation."

That shows a "loophole" in regulation, said Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Center for Food Safety, "a national nonprofit advocacy group that supports organic and sustainable agriculture," Holly reports. Opponents' last hope appears to be the Environmental Protection Agency, which has yet to give its O.K.,

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