Just Label It News Roundup, October 5th
In this week’s news, we learned the French government intends to vote against reauthorization of glyphosate use in the EU. In the U.S., a University of Missouri report showed 2,242 farmers said dicamba has damaged an estimated 3.1 million acres. Also this week, emails were found exposing Monsanto for fending off concerns about the safety of glyphosate, and decrying scientific research indicating the chemical might cause cancer or other diseases. Also in the news were efforts to ban dicamba, which could benefit the prices of agriculture products such as soybeans and cotton. And do you eat conventional apples? Three non-browning genetically engineered “artic apples” have been approved for sale in the U.S.: Golden, Granny and Fuji.
The European Commission has proposed renewing its approval for glyphosate for another 10 years. This is far too long, given the concerns that remain over this product, and France will vote against the proposal, as clearly laid out previously in July,” Prime Minister Eduard Philippe announced. The French government intends to vote against and block the European Commission’s proposal to reauthorize use of the controversial chemical in the European Union.
Nationally, 2,242 farmers say dicamba has damaged an estimated 3.1 million acres, a University of Missouri report shows.
Iowa ag leaders are investigating a record 258 crop damage reports from pesticide misuse this year. About 100 complaints on 150,000 acres are tied to dicamba.
Monsanto and other ag giants like DuPont and BASF have developed seeds that are genetically modified so they can be sprayed with dicamba, killing weeds but leaving the crop unharmed. At issue is whether the new dicamba products stay where they’re sprayed — or move to neighboring fields, where they can damage non-resistant crops, fruits and vegetables, trees and flowers.
Marketed under the Arctic Apples brand, the genetically modified fruit, which is engineered to resist browning when sliced. The apples have been engineered using a gene silencing technique to dramatically reduce the production of polyphenol oxidase (PPO), an enzyme that triggers the chemical reaction that causes browning when the fruit is sliced or bruised.
There are approximately 80ha planted in Washington State and this is expected to double next year. “We estimate this initial crop will be in the range of 9,000 tonnes and plan to increase output in the coming years until we have sufficient volume to meet international demand from major retailers and the foodservice sector,” says president Neal Carter.
Three non-browning varieties have been approved for sale in the US: Golden, Granny and Fuji. Gala is next in line, with additional varieties being introduced further ahead.
Monsanto had spent decades fending off concerns about the safety of glyphosate and decrying scientific research indicating the chemical might cause cancer or other diseases. And even though the IARC review was still months away, Monsanto’s own scientists knew what the outcome would likely be—and they knew it wouldn’t be good.
Internal company records show not just the level of fear Monsanto had over the impending review, but notably that company officials fully expected IARC scientists would find at least some cancer connections to glyphosate. Company scientists discussed the “vulnerability” that surrounded their efforts to defend glyphosate amid multiple unfavorable research findings in studies of people and animals exposed to the weed killer. In addition to epidemiology studies, “we also have potential vulnerabilities in the other areas that IARC will consider, namely, exposure, genetox and mode of action…” a Monsanto scientist wrote in October 2014. That same email discussed a need to find allies and arrange funding for a “fight”—all months before the IARC meeting in March 2015.
A debate over the weed killer dicamba could end up limiting the use of agriculture herbicides and result in winners and losers among chemical companies and farmers.
Efforts to ban the herbicide could benefit the prices of agriculture products such as soybeans and cotton. At the same time, equities of chemical companies could face downward pressure. But no matter the outcome, the more likely winners will be non-genetically modified organics and owners of non-GMO farmland.