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Monsanto Supersizes Farmers' Weed Problem, But Science Can Help
When Monsanto came up with its Roundup Ready system of genetically engineered seeds in the 1990s, designed for immunity to the herbicide glyphosate, the Big Ag giant seemed like a superhero to farmers looking for an effective way to fight weeds.
Clip from Nathan Shields' animation, 'Monsanto Supersizes Weed Problems.'
But alas, this was a superhero with a fatal flaw. Before they knew what hit them, farmers' weed problems morphed into a national superweed crisis. Superweeds have now spread to more than 60 million acres of U.S. farmland, wreaking environmental and economic havoc along the way.
Monsanto and other Big Ag companies say they can fix this problem, but their solutions look awfully similar to the one that has already failed. Why consider this "let's do it again" approach when there are real solutions available? A Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) briefing paper, The Rise of Superweeds, explains how this crisis developed—and outlines what can be done about it. UCS calls the solution healthy farms, which use practices grounded in the science of agroecology that are "sustainable and cost-effective, and more and more farmers are putting it into practice." These practices make farms healthier, and recent research shows that they work.
To transition to healthy farms, the U.S. needs new policies and farmers need more research. UCS recommends that Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture take the following actions:
- Fund and implement the Conservation Stewardship Program, which provides support for farmers using sustainable weed control methods.
- Institute new regional programs that encourage farmers to address weed problems through sustainable techniques.
- Support organic farmers and those who want to transition to organic farming with research, certification, cost-sharing and marketing programs. (Organic farming serves as a "test kitchen" for integrated weed management practices that can be broadly applied to conventional farm systems.)
- Support multidisciplinary research on integrated weed management strategies and educate farmers in their use.
- Bring together scientists, industry, farmers and public interest groups to formulate plans preventing or containing the development of herbicide-resistant weeds, and make the approval of new herbicide-tolerant crops conditional on the implementation of such plans.
- Fund and carry out long-term research to breed crop varieties and cover crops that compete with and control weeds more effectively.
The grim reality being faced by farmers across the U.S.—and what can be done about it—is depicted in the following animation created by UCS member Nathan Shields of Draw4.Us.
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By Jake Johnson
As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.