GENTECH archive


Re: Bt pesticides, archive 2444

Dorothy wrote:
like a lot of people I have major concerns about the degradation of the Australian environment. The soils are fragile, we don't have a lot of water, salinity is becoming a problem, we are still clearing land for farming at the risk of having less water in our rivers and dams, more salinity and soil erosion.... If someone doesn't take some meaningful initiative to turn this around we will have a desert that will not sustain life. We need to learn to work with the land - not push it to the max - .

You are right with this much! But as you might have noticed from traveling around Australia, the major cause of salinity and erosion is grazing, not cotton production. Cotton is grown on less than 0.5 million hectares, and contributes as much fiber as all of the sheep in Australia, over at least 20 million hectares. Most of the salinity is in southern Australia, not cotton growing areas, and is due to the clearing of trees, most of this for grazing. In sum, we should support cotton growing, and even Bt cotton, because whatever its hazards, they are clearly less than the known alternatives!

New Scientist 18 December p. 5 has written up the issue Wytze brought to the list on pesticides and GE crops. <> Indeed, the GE soya already on the market would indicate that we can expect higher MRLs for agrichemicals used. So while you may have reduced the number of chemicals used - I suspect you have not reduced the overall volume. Having said that I have not actually seen any data relating to this. BUT - increased MRLs are not acceptable.

Dorothy, see /issues/

With respect to MRLs, as I have written before on this list, the MRL for any pesticide not registered on a crop is the limit of detection. Because Roundup obviously kills crops that are not resistant to it, it was not registered for them. You couldn't introduce Round-up Ready crops without raising the MRL for Round-up, since it would surely be detectable with the sophisticated methods available today. The trade-off is lower residues for the other herbicides that would have been used otherwise. See below the comments about Round-up.

Dorothy wrote:
Migraine, asthma

There are many people in the community that are affected very severely by chemicals in their neighbourhood, including Roundup. Even in cities we are subjected to agrochemical use. We have herbicides and pesticides used around us to control weeds and insect pests..... (clipped for brevity)

You may be right, glyphosate may not be the cause, it may be another component of the formulation e.g. a solvent. How will we ever know if we don't seriously investigate the health claims and the chemical involved. (clipped for brevity)

Dorothy, I have no doubt that there are many toxic materials in our environments, but suspect that due to exposure levels, the highest risks are from common household materials. Are we ready to ban oven cleaners? I have read the literature extensively and am convinced that Round-up is far safer than most, and not the cause of the problems you alledge. I agree with a statement from the Total Environment Centre in Sydney, which you would recognise as not under any influence from industry: "If a herbicide must be used, Roundup appears to be less hazardous to human health and the environment than other commonly used products".

Dorothy wrote:
Your mind is a garden

Your thoughts are your seeds

You can have flowers

Dorothy, that's what I have tried to do. I began 10 years ago very skeptical of Bt cotton, but after studying the facts in depth, I have concluded that it is of real benefit to health and the environment with no risks except to the cotton industry itself if they don't use it carefully to slow resistance. I still find it hard to accept that any fair-minded environmentalist or health worker would object to Bt cotton. I have concluded that the opposition is because some people object to all GE, without respect to the merits of specific cases, perhaps because they believe that any acceptance is the thin edge of the wedge for the justification of other crops. Personally, I find such rigid views to be depressing for the future of humankind.