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2-Plants: Argentina's GMO soy raising environment concerns



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TITLE:  Argentina's GMO soy raising environment concerns
SOURCE: Reuters, by Hilary Burke
        http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=5265722
DATE:   26 May 2004 

------------------- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/ -------------------


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   "But Monsanto UK [...] said, "Glyphosate remains effective and has a
    long history of safe use." Monsanto UK also referred readers to
    related links on its Web site, www.monsanto.co.uk. The New Scientist
    warned as well of the possible emergence of glyphosate-resistant
    "superweeds." Nisensohn said that only naturally tolerant weeds have
    cropped up so far and resistance could be prevented by mixing or
    alternating herbicides."
                                                     Reuters, 26 May 2004

   "'We had a few isolated fields in southeast Indiana that were showing
    poor control of marestail with glyphosate in 2001 and 2002,' Johnson
    said. 'By late 2002 we'd confirmed glyphosate resistance in four
    counties, and we highly suspected it in six additional counties. We
    did some extensive field surveying in the fall of 2003 and now
    believe we've found glyphosate-resistant marestail in about 19
    counties, mostly in southeastern Indiana," Johnson said. [...]
    He said the second reason marestail is troublesome is that it 
    already has developed resistance to ALS inhibitors and triazines.
    'So we're running out of effective tools to manage the weed,'
    Johnson said."
                                           Chronicle-Tribune, 26 May 2004
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Argentina's GMO soy raising environment concerns

BUENOS AIRES, May 25 (Reuters) - Argentina's whole-hearted embrace of
genetically modified soybeans is wreaking environmental havoc because of
certain pesticides used on the altered crop as well as a jump in the
amount of forests being cleared for soybean planting, critics charge.

Over 90 percent of Argentina's 30 million tonnes of soybeans are
engineered to resist glyphosate, a comparatively benign herbicide that
some green groups and researchers say creates resistant weeds and kills
soil bacteria.

Government scientists and biotech backers fiercely dispute those claims.
But no one denies that Argentina's feverish planting of modified soybeans
to the exclusion of other crops, and in areas once forested, raises
environmental concerns.

"Nowhere else in the world has there been such a massive adoption of GMO
(genetically modified organism) soy and glyphosate," said Luisa
Nisensohn, a researcher at the National University of Rosario who has
studied glyphosate's effects on weeds for five years.

"This phenomenon must be studied to prevent future problems," Nisensohn added.

In the last 10 years, Argentina's soybean area has grown by 250 percent
to a record 14.2 million hectares, thanks partly to cheaper and easier-
to-grow GMO soybeans and no-till planting, which permits farming in
drier, less fertile areas.

Above all, soy's profitability has fueled the boom. Chicago Board of
Trade futures contracts rose to 15-year highs last month and world
demand, led by China, keeps rising for vegetable protein to use in animal
feed, for cooking oils, or even for biodiesel fuels.

Argentine biotech opponents say the profit-seeking by soy farmers and
processors is devastating Argentina's soil.

"It has been proven that glyphosate kills bacteria in the soil ... The
soil is dying, there are no microbial colonies, there are no earthworms,"
said Jorge Eduardo Rulli, a founder of the local, anti-GMO Group for
Rural Reflection.

Argentina's arm of U.S. biotech pioneer Monsanto Co., which developed
glyphosate-resistant soybeans and markets glyphosate worldwide as
Roundup, declined to comment.

But Monsanto UK, in response to an article published last month in the
British magazine New Scientist that included similar claims, said,
"Glyphosate remains effective and has a long history of safe use."
Monsanto UK also referred readers to related links on its Web site,
www.monsanto.co.uk.

The New Scientist warned as well of the possible emergence of glyphosate-
resistant "superweeds." Nisensohn said that only naturally tolerant weeds
have cropped up so far and resistance could be prevented by mixing or
alternating herbicides.

Argentine government scientists say the benefits of no-till planting,
which prevents erosion by leaving organic matter on top of soils,
outweigh concerns about glyphosate.

"The worst thing you can do to the soil is till it," said Hector Tassara,
a government biotechnology researcher.


TREE-FELLING AND MONOCULTURE FEARS

Greenpeace activists this month protested deforestation by soybean
growers in the northern province of Santiago del Estero, spreading a
gigantic banner over a recently cleared plot that read: "Not One More
Hectare."

The expansion of soybeans "is not only destroying what's left of our
forests ... it is depriving us of their benefits: climatic protection and
water retention, which averts flooding and soil degradation," the group
said in a statement.

Provinces outside Argentina's central farming region -- such as Entre
Rios to the east and Chaco, Santiago del Estero, Salta and Tucuman to the
north -- now produce nearly 21 percent of the nation's soy crop, up from
9.5 percent 10 years ago.

"The expansion of the farming region is worrisome because it's
uncontrolled growth ... not because it's GMO soy or because glyphosate is
used," said Gabriela Levitus, executive director of ArgenBio, which
groups the top biotech companies.

The area seeded with corn, sunflower seeds and cotton has fallen sharply
as soybeans advance. Critics say the government should promote crop
rotation with subsidies, but steep export taxes have made soybeans the
state's top source of dollars.

"There is no agriculture policy because soy exports are very profitable
for the government," said Jose Castellano, president of the Rural Society
in San Francisco, Cordoba.

Charles Benbrook, an Idaho-based agricultural technology consultant who
has written about U.S. research on glyphosate, finds Argentina's whole-
hog approach worrisome.

"You can't rely on one tool alone to manage any major type of pest
without setting the stage for an ecological meltdown," Benbrook said.

 


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