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Tagged with Monsanto

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File under bad idea: G8 asks Big Ag to take the lead in feeding the world

When President Obama announced a new program during the recent G8 summit to help bolster food and agriculture in developing nations through corporate “pledges,” I was most struck by his choice of partners in the effort. A Reuters report on the announcement read:

The initiative includes a new partnership with agribusiness giants such as DuPont, Monsanto and Cargill, along with smaller companies, including almost 20 from Africa, which will commit some $3 billion for projects to help farmers in the developing world build local markets and improve productivity.

Those three companies are the good food movement’s equivalent of the law firm Dewey, Cheatem & Howe -- not the folks it wants to see put in charge of anything, much less “feeding the world.” These companies believe that exporting western-style industrial agriculture to the developing world (Africa in particular) is key to ensuring enough food for a growing population. And they maintain this position despite the growing evidence that industrial agriculture can’t solve the problem.

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Monsanto WISHES it could make corn this cool

"Glass Gem" corn looks almost CGI, but it actually comes out of the ground that way. It's the product of a small farm and a retro, handcrafted approach to agriculture -- "genetic modification" from back when genetic modification meant painstaking generations of selective breeding.

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Meet a pesticide even conventional vegetable farmers fear

A still from a promotional video (see below) for the herbicide 2,4-D, which is being marketed as a solution for "superweeds" (picured), which have grown tolerant to other herbicides.

A new coalition is trying to throw sand in the gears of industrial agriculture’s chemical treadmill. And this one just may have what it takes to slow it down. I’m referring to the fight over USDA approval for Dow AgroScience’s new genetically modified corn seeds (brand name “Enlist”), which are resistant to the herbicide 2,4-D.

This is part of biotech’s “superweed” strategy, by which they hope to address the fact that farmers across the country are facing an onslaught of weeds impervious to the most popular herbicide in use, Monsanto’s glyphosate or RoundUp (and in some cases impervious to machetes as well!). Of course, this is a problem of the industry’s own making. It was overuse of glyphosate caused by the market dominance of Monsanto’s set of glyphosate-resistant genetically engineered seeds that put farmers in this fix in the first place.

One of the older herbicides, 2,4-D is a pretty nasty chemical -- it’s been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, kidney and liver problems, reproductive effects, and shows endocrine disrupting potential -- which is one of the many reasons farmers prefer the more “benign” glyphosate. In fact, on the basis of the scientific evidence, especially related to human cancers, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) several years ago to withdraw its approval for 2,4-D. Earlier this month, the petition was summarily denied.

So it’s interesting to see this new coalition’s opposition to 2,4-D getting so much traction so quickly. Perhaps it’s because the group -- dubbed Save Our Crops -- isn’t made up of environmentalists and sustainable agriculture types, but rather Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic conventional farmers and large food processors (and Organic Valley, the organic co-operative organization which is both a producer and a processor).

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The mother who stood up to Monsanto in Argentina

Photo courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize.

When Sofia Gatica’s 3-day-old daughter died from kidney failure, she didn't connect it with an environmental problem. It was only as she noticed neighbor after neighbor developing health problems that she started to wonder about the agrochemicals that were being sprayed on the farms nearby.

"I started seeing children with mouth covers, mothers with scarves wrapped around their heads to cover their baldness, due to chemotherapy," she told me recently through a translator. It was then, Gatica says, she knew something was seriously wrong.

Her city, Ituzaingó, Argentina, is surrounded by soybean fields where farmers use some of the same chemicals used on crops grown in the U.S. -- chiefly glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's weed killer Roundup. But in Ituzaingó, the industrial-scale farms that grow soybeans for export have crept right up to the edge of the residential community, and many of the chemicals are sprayed aerially, allowing them to drift wherever the wind or water will take them.

"There are soybeans to the north, to the south, and to the east, and when they spray, they spray over the people because there's no distance," Gatica said, adding that some homes are less than five yards from where the fields start.

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Monsanto picture book teaches kids about the wonders of biotech

Hey kids, can you complete this word: B _ _ T _ C H N _ L _ G Y? What's that spell? If you said "a really neat topic [that is] helping to improve the health of the Earth and the people who call it home," you may have been reading Look Closer at Biotechnology, a kids' activity book funded by Monsanto and other biotech firms.

Read more: Food

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Put your hack into it: Anonymous targets Monsanto

Hack to the future: Anonymous targets Monsanto.

Like most tech-world outsiders, I rarely know how seriously to take news about hacking.

On any other week I might not pay much attention to today’s report from CNet announcing that Antisec, a group of hackers loosely affiliated with Anonymous, is targeting the biotech seed giant Monsanto. After all, the data the group made available online is from over a decade ago. And the threat they’ve published (see below) is ominous perhaps, but vague.

So why draw attention to it here? This isn’t your average week for Monsanto news.

Read more: Food

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Critical List: TransCanada reboots KeystoneXL; the most energy-dense battery ever

TransCanada is going to reapply for a Keystone XL permit and wants to start work on the Oklahoma-to-Texas portion of the pipeline.

Envia Systems has created the most energy-dense battery ever, which could bring down the price of electric vehicles and extend their range.

Rick Santorum thinks gas prices caused the recession. No, he really does. A direct quote: "The bubble burst in housing because people couldn't pay their mortgages because they were looking at $4 a gallon gasoline."

A New York court dismissed a case by organic farmers who hoped for protection against Monsanto should the agribusiness giant's genes get into their crops.

ARPA-E's energy innovation summit has kicked into gear.

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French judge: Monsanto poisoned farmer

In 2004, Paul François, a French farmer, breathed in the vapor of Monsanto's Lasso weedkiller while cleaning out the tank of a crop sprayer. He lost consciousness and later suffered from memory loss and headaches. Monday, a French court found that Monsanto could be held liable for poisoning François.

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Critical List: Obama budget ups clean energy funding; Monsanto poisoned farmer

Happy Valentine's Day! Enjoy that chocolate now: it could be harder to find as climate change takes its toll on the cacao tree. Here are some other "green(ish)" ideas for presents to the one you love, be it your sweetie, your kid, your BFF, or your favorite teacher. And here’s Grist’s V-day roundup.

President Obama's 2013 budget increased funding for renewable energy by 29 percent.

In France, a judge found Monsanto guilty of poisoning a farmer who was exposed some of the company's weedkiller.

Hurricanes could tear up offshore wind turbines

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Farmers advance in their suit against Monsanto

Monsanto is getting a taste of its own medicine; the company is being taken to court.

In this corner, we have a corporate biotech giant with a tighter grasp on the agricultural Monopoly board than your over-enthusiastic little sister on game night. (Their patented genes are in more than 80 percent of the soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets, and canola seeds grown in the U.S.) And in this corner, 83 scrappy plaintiffs representing non-GMO seed producers, farmers, and agricultural organizations who say they want the biotech company to stop suing and threatening them. While most are organic, not all of them are.