U.S. Department of Agriculture Paves Way for Widespread Use of Toxic Pesticides
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is closing out 2011 in much the same way it started the year—approving the use of genetically modified (GM) crops designed to withstand pesticide applications. On Dec. 27, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) approved the use of two more GM crops and announced the availability of assessments for two additional GM crops. The end of the year announcements, however, include a holiday bonus—the department is on the verge of approving not just glyphosate-resistant crops, but crops engineered to withstand the systemic herbicide, 2,4-D.
The move to engineering crops resistant to 2,4-D comes on the heels of reports from the field and in the lab that GM crops—and specifically, those engineered to be glyphosate tolerant—are creating herbicide-resistant weeds. Not a new concept, the “pesticide treadmill” is catching up with biotechnology breakthroughs. Chemical companies must continually develop new and stronger pesticides to combat the unwanted weeds in farmers’ fields that have developed resistance to certain chemicals. The use of glyphosate-tolerant GM crops, and the accompanying use of glyphosate, has created glyphosate-tolerant weeds. Not missing a beat, chemical companies are developing GM crops resistant to stronger pesticides, such as 2,4-D.
The development of GM crops that are resistant to persistent, toxic pesticides lays to rest one of original lies told about GE crops—that their widespread use would lead to the end of toxic pesticides like 2,4-D that have been associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease and other medical disorders in humans and animals.
APHIS has prepared a plant pest risk assessment and an environmental assessment on the 2,4-D resistant corn engineered by Dow, Inc., as well as assessments on a Monsanto-made soybean engineered to produce an omega-3 fatty acid. APHIS has proposed to deregulate both crops, and is accepting public comment on its determinations through Feb. 27, 2012.
APHIS also announced the full deregulation without conditions of another Monsanto-made soybean, this time with tolerance to glyphosate and a modified fatty acid profile, as well as a corn engineered by Monsanto to be drought tolerant. (Readers may recall that a competing company, Pioneer, released drought-tolerant corn developed through conventional breeding methods earlier this year.)
In a year marked by a steady stream (and at times, a deluge) of GE crop approvals, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition developed a policy on genetically engineered crops and livestock that supports farmer choice and enterprise, consumer choice, and a regulatory process informed by independent, open scientific assessment.
For more information, click here.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.