Tag: agriculture

The Monsanto monster

October 26, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More
The Monsanto monster

Monsanto has been a target for many years. They have a terrible environmental and health record, they have harassed small farmers for years, they’ve bribed officials in Indonesia, and they’ve joked about performing “rural cleansing” (a play on the words “ethnic cleansing”, i.e. genocide), and told small seed cleaners that rather than buy them out, “We’d rather put you out of business, it’s more fun that way.” All this from the company that brought Agent Orange to Vietnam, resulting in 400,000 deaths and disabilities, as well as 500,000 children born with birth defects.

However, in the world of corporate PR, no sin is too big. Monsanto has sought to remake its image as the company that’s helping to feed the world. Their website claims that “We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We help farmers grow yield sustainably so they can be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.” High claims, to be sure. Too bad we don’t know if they hold up to scrutiny.

A new article by the editors of Scientific American explains the situation:

To purchase genetically modified seeds, a customer must sign an agreement that limits what can be done with them. (If you have installed software recently, you will recognize the concept of the end-user agreement.) Agreements are considered necessary to protect a company’s intellectual property, and they justifiably preclude the replication of the genetic enhancements that make the seeds unique. But agritech companies such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta go further. For a decade their user agreements have explicitly forbidden the use of the seeds for any independent research. Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects.

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Science – It’s a bee-utiful thing!

April 17, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More
Science – It’s a bee-utiful thing!

None of us like bee stings, but we all like the produce that bees help to sustain, not least the honey that comes from the bees themselves. Bees are an extremely important part of our agricultural eco-system, especially for sustainable and organic farmers. I was therefore very interested to read in Ars Technica’s science blog about a possible cure for colony collapse disorder.

Apiarists were extremely worried when they noticed the sudden and dramatic decline of otherwise healthy aviaries in recent years. Many suggestions were made as to root cause, including cell phone use. It now appears that a cure is on the horizon.

Spanish researchers, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Microbiology Reports, investigated colony collapse in many Spanish aviaries. They isolated a parasitic fungus, which they discovered to be the root cause of the colony collapse. Treating other diseased colonies with an anti-fungal agent enabled the colonies to recover completely.

I’m looking forwards to a bee-utiful summer!

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