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Book review: Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth Book Review

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth by Steven Druker

by Steven Druker, review by Simi Summer, Ph.D.

Safe food activists and concerned consumers alike will not want to miss the newest entry into the GM food debate by public interest attorney Steven Druker. Endorsed by Dame Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace, the book has been launched at a critical time in the history of national and global food production.

Unwanted trends in the name of “sustainable agriculture” and international agricultural development point to the success of the Green Revolution in deceiving innocent farmers through biotechnology. This includes the widespread distribution of GM seeds to “solve” world hunger. Likewise, many countries with strict labeling laws, that have banned GMOs, are now considering commercial planting of GM crops. This reflects a change in collective thinking which seriously challenges international GM blockades currently in place. On the home front, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, otherwise known as the Dark Act, has been making headway, while GMO labeling supporters are busy letting congress know that this is not the kind of legislation they want implemented.

Although Druker’s book addresses the most current food safety concerns in an indirect manner, his topic is timely. He offers a compelling historical exposé of the way in which both the government and leading scientific bodies have convincingly misrepresented the facts about biotechnology. Druker claims that when GMO crops were first approved for commercial use in 1992, the government covered up and ignored the warnings of their own scientists, lied about the facts and subsequently violated federal food safety law by allowing these foods to be sold and marketed without using standard testing to prove that they were safe. Continue Reading →

Glyphosate Under the Gun — World Health Organization Weighs In

Thyroid Cancer Incidence Rate

by ANDRÉ LEU

The Lancet Oncology, the world’s premier scientific journal for cancer studies, recently published a paper by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that has classified glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) as a “probable carcinogenic,” outlining several scientific studies showing that it causes a range of cancers including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, renal cancers, skin cancers and pancreatic cancer.

Seventeen independent experts, with no conflicts of interest, from 11 countries met in March at the IARC headquarters in France to assess the carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon and glyphosate. All of these chemicals were given classifications for their ability to cause cancer based on published peerreviewed scientific studies. Continue Reading →

Smart Sowing for Natural Weed Control

weedy-wheatNew research results from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences report that weeds would have a tough time competing against crops such as corn, grains and beans if farmers were to alter their sowing patterns.

“Our results demonstrate that weed control in fields is aided by abandoning traditional seed sowing techniques. Farmers around the world generally sow their crops in rows. Our studies with wheat and corn show that tighter sowing in grid patterns suppresses weed growth. This provides increased crop yields in fields prone to heavy amounts of weeds,” said Professor Jacob Weiner, a University of Copenhagen plant ecologist.

Research studies performed in Danish wheat fields, together with recent studies in Colombian cornfields, demonstrate that modified sowing patterns and the nearer spacing of crops results in a reduction of total weed biomass. The amount of weeds was heavily reduced — by up to 72 percent — while grain yields increased by more than 45 percent in heavily weed-infested fields. The trick is to increase crop-weed competition and utilize the crop’s head start, so that it gains a large competitive advantage over the neighboring weeds. The research results from Colombia have been published in Weed Research. This encapsulation of the research is from the March 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Diverse Plant Communities Resist Invasive Species

diverse-oak resist invasive.tifHerbivores consume more nonnative oak leaf material in areas with diverse native plant communities than in less diverse communities. Why diverse plant communities tend to resist invasion by non-native or invasive species remains uncertain. Researchers from the Illinois Natural History Survey and the Morton Arboretum have been examining the potential role of herbivores on the invasion of nonnative plant species in diverse plant communities. The researchers examined herbivore damage on leaves of non-native oak trees in arboreta across the United States. They found that non-native oaks in regions with high oak species diversity showed more leaf damage than those in regions with low diversity.

This article appears in the December 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

True Grit in Battle Against Weeds

battle-against-weedsU.S. Department of Agriculture agronomist Frank Forcella has devised a tractor-mounted system that uses compressed air to shred small annual weeds like common lambsquarters with high-speed particles of grit made from dried corn cobs. Ongoing field trials may confirm the system’s potential to help organic growers tackle infestations of weeds that have sprouted around the bases of corn, soybean and other row crops.

Dubbed “Propelled Abrasive Grit Management” (PAGMan), the weed control system Forcella is testing disperses 0.5-millimeter-sized grit particles in a cone-shaped pattern at the rate of about 300 pounds per acre using 100 pounds per square inch of compressed air.

This summer marked a second round of field trials of PAGMan on multiple rows of silage corn grown on 10-acre plots of certified organic land in Minnesota. Field trial results from 2013 showed season-long weed control levels of 80 to 90 percent in corn using two treatments of the abrasive grit-one at the first leaf stage, and the second at the three- or five-leaf stage of corn growth. Corn yields also compared favorably to those in hand-weeded plots used for comparison.

The crop plants escape harm because they are taller than the weeds during treatment and their apical stems (growing points) are protected beneath the soil by thick plant parts. Results from small-plot studies have been published in Weed Technology and other journals.

This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Interview: Chemical Crutch — Examining the Industrial Agriculture Cycle of Dependence from a Whole-Systems Approach

David Mortensen Interview

David Mortensen, Ph.D.

David Mortensen, Ph.D. interviewed by: Chris Walters


David Mortensen, Ph.D., is a professor of weed ecology at Penn State. Back in early 2012 he led a team of co-authors who produced a paper called “Navigating a Critical Juncture in Sustainable Weed Management.” The equivalent of an agricultural bombshell, it delivered unhappy news about the consequences of engineering crops to withstand more than one pesticide. Noting the remarkable ability of weeds to evolve resistance strategies, Mortensen and his co-authors predicted ecological disaster if crops engineered to permit the return of 2,4-D and dicamba are put into circulation. The article’s predictions of exponentially rising auxinic herbicide use were shocking until it emerged that the USDA’s estimates were even higher. Over two years later, as biotechnology’s latest assault draws closer to final regulatory approval or refusal, it seemed like a good idea to check in with Mortensen. Author of dozens of research papers, he is a veteran of decades working in fields alongside farmers in Iowa, Maryland, and many states in between.

ACRES U.S.A. What is the crux of the issue here?

DAVID MORTENSEN. This new technology that’s going to “save” herbicide- resistant crops — that is, the new stacked-trait herbicide-resistant crops — in my view is going in exactly the wrong direction. It’s going in the wrong direction for a number of reasons, not least of which is that if we adopt them we are going to double or triple herbicide use on our major commodity crops, corn and soybean, with significant increases in use on cotton. We tried to be conservative and careful in our Critical Juncture paper with that estimate of doubling and tripling herbicide use. We spent months debating that amongst the co-authors. Thus it’s intriguing for me to read in the USDA’s own assessment that we will increase use of auxinic herbicides four to seven-fold if we approve these new crops, as the USDA seems to be leaning toward doing. I find it bordering on maddening to think that’s an acceptable trajectory to put ourselves on. It goes against everything I’ve worked on for the past 30 years. Continue Reading →