To add to this week’s cornucopia of apocalyptic news, the NYTimes has a fairly terrifying article cheerfully titled “Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds”:
Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds. To fight them, Mr. Anderson and farmers throughout the East, Midwest and South are being forced to spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing…
Farm experts say that such efforts could lead to higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs and more pollution of land and water… Today, Roundup Ready crops account for about 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States.
Monsanto argues that Roundup still controls hundreds of weeds. But the company is concerned enough about the problem that it is taking the extraordinary step of subsidizing cotton farmers’ purchases of competing herbicides to supplement Roundup… Bayer is already selling cotton and soybeans resistant to glufosinate, another weedkiller. Monsanto’s newest corn is tolerant of both glyphosate and glufosinate, and the company is developing crops resistant to dicamba, an older pesticide. Syngenta is developing soybeans tolerant of its Callisto product. And Dow Chemical is developing corn and soybeans resistant to 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange, the defoliant used in the Vietnam War…
My emphasis. Is it only people over 40, or those who were at agricultural colleges in the early 1980s, who get a little twitchy when the words “Dow” and “dioxins” are mentioned in close proximity?
Call me crazy, but wasn’t the whole point of Agent Orange to defoliate the jungle? Granted, this was also when DDT was in wide usage, and it took almost wiping out our national symbol to learn that painful lesson. Also, isn’t it really difficult to remove from any infected area? If this goes into widespread use I’ll drop any and all corn products from my diet period. And I won’t ever biologically produce children.
I see a promising future for Cole and his dandelion WMD.
How about this, we hire Americans to pull these weeds for $50 and hour and send the bill to be split between John McCain, the GOP and Monstano?
I quickly glanced at this title and thought it read “Resistant Supertweeds.” What, I asked myself, are those woolen mills up to now? But then on closer inspection it’s just about our evil seed companies. Much less intriguing.
Twitchy? Nah, Love Canal is a charming place, and I understand the twitching goes away 20 or so years after you leave.
Under 40 here, but not by much, and have no idea what you’re talking about.
Now where have I heard this before? Oh yeah, every time you even think about cutting the
monster agribusinessfarm subsidy. Might as well go for it anyway, the localvore movement will either save us all or we’ll starve when the next wave of dust bowls hits.
Well, we will certainly starve before the century is out, but this just goes to show you, try as you might, you can’t stop life from living. Damn good news viewed in that light.
Let us all now chant: “Kud-zu, Kud-zu”
And I’m closer to 60 than 40, so Dow + Dioxins does evoke some less-than-ideal memories.
I’m not familiar with this field of science, but is this a problem that could have been avoided if we didn’t soak all of our plant life with pesticides and chemicals, thus allowing superweeds to sprout?
@Linkmeister: FWIW kudzu is edible, in fact they eat it often in Japan.
Apparently kudzu can also be controlled by grazing animals, so if it gets too out of control rent a few goats.
Paging Agent Death! Paging Agent Death! Spill in Aisle Nine!
Hey, remember how you “believe in evolution”? Welcome to evolution.
You should be thankful that we have non-generational data transfer mechanisms, like words, books, and the tubes. That’s the only way to propagate data faster.
For me, Dow = napalm.
yeah… another reason to go Galt somewhere far away from all this — an organic farm in New Zealand, perhaps?
Idiot in charge of FEMA during Katrina:
Why not have Roman Polanski (or Pope Benedict) on to talk about keeping your children safe from predators?
Wasn’t 2, 4-D one of the pesticides cited by Rachel Carson in Silent Spring? One of the pesticides that builds up in concentration as it goes up the food-chain?
I thought that was banned years ago.
Scary doesn’t begin to describe it.
Here’s a nice non-chemical Kudzu project up the road in South Carolina.
evolution vs agribusiness
even though it might literally kill me, i think i am going to grab a bowl of popcorn and watch this one play out.
go Galt somewhere far away from all this—an organic farm in New Zealand, perhaps?
I feel obliged at times such as these to point out that New Zealand is already full of New Zealanders.
@fucen tarmal: Agribusiness IS evolution. It is the accelleration of genetic meme/gene selection.
@Sm*t Cl*de: Yes, but they all live in those underground holes with their furry feet. They won’t mind humans on the surface.
I’m mid 40s with a dad who was in Nam and dealing with health issues related to Agent Orange. Reading this makes my very twitchy.
We’d better get busy with the BJ cooperative farmer’s market and trading blog
at least somebody is trying to do the right thing… I lived in Atlanta area for a few years, the Kudzu was astounding…I can’t imagine how it is in the lesser populated areas.
Damien Thorne, from the Omen movies… he was involved in Agra-business. ‘Nuff said.
Too much corn and soybeans are grown, which is why it creeps into most processed foods. The animals these grains are fed to are better off grazing. And I prefer cotton to polyester, but like hemp most of all.
I have a hemp outfit for summer that is much cooler than cotton.
So Big Ag can jump in a shit lagoon as far as I’m concerned.
We are a failed species.
There is a fair SF book about first contact called “The Mote In God’s Eye”. I won’t bore you with the details but one of the concepts the aliens have is ‘Crazy Eddy’ which states that every solution creates a bigger problem than the problem it was designed to solve.
In addition to Dow do a little googling on Monsanto. Agribusiness is killing agriculture to make more food cheaper & faster. The end result is an unsustainable mess. The problem with not continuing to sustain it is that we probably can’t feed all the people we have. (I know, Mr. Upbeat-happy-talk again).
In so many areas, energy, water, food, mineral resources we are killing ourselves as a species. The dinos had a good run too.
Google Ads is a spiffy tool BTW – the ad currently running above this thread is for “spraywithme” selling herbicides!
This is why I burn my weeds with one of these. The fact I might also burn down my house just makes it more exciting.
I like this — while he doesn’t exactly say Obama is devilishly controlling the weather, if this happens it will be his fault because it is “exactly what he wants”.
Okay, look. 2,4-D is the most overused herbicide on the planet. It does have toxic effects (in high exposures) and I personally believe, considering how constantly we’re exposed to it (because it’s on half the lawns in your neighborhood, every summer of your life) its long-term effects are under-examined. But.
2,4-D IS NOT AGENT FUCKING ORANGE
It’s a related compound. Chemically similar, but not one and the same. You might as welll say that rubbing alcohol is an ingredient of martinis.
We need to get our pesticide and herbicide addiction under control, for the good of all the living things including ourselves. But one thing I really hate about being allied with the organic gardening culture is how readily my friends embrace nonsense. There are very good reasons to stop using 2,4-D. Its connection to the Vietnam atrocity isn’t one of them.
J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford
Full disclosure: I worked for Monsanto Company in the 90’s in the Regulatory dept and spent a lot of time preparing presentations on the GM crops being developed.
This NYT article from 1998, Playing God in the Garden, contains this gem:
Geeze, so far this morning this is the second comment I’ve had to make that goes to the point about us being the most stupid species on the planet – by any criteria that matters anyway. Btw, I grew up in Midland, MI which is the town that spawned Dow Chemical, and I happen to know that amid the economic woes that trouble so many, Dow is doing pretty well. I’m sure Monsanto is too. As for the rest of the peons who once dreamt of being fairly represented by their leaders in our once great democracy – in a land with sane priorities… I think we all know what happened to that. The warning about eternal vigilance must have fallen on deaf ears somewhere along the line. Long live the Corporations, long live ignorance, long live greed. Have you ever woken from a dream that was so beautiful you had tears on your pillow? It’s painful to think of what could have been. OK, time to get to work.
i would say it nibbles around the edges of evolution, but it bypasses natural selection. it tries to control for the survival of its accelerated genetic products.products created, not circumstantially, but to serve a specified purpose. unless you mean in the existential sense, then of course, i say well done sir.
call me ishmael
Up where I’m from in Eastern Canada, everyone knows about 2,4D and 2,4,5T. They used to spray it by hand on power line right-of-ways in the forest, in the 50’s to the late 60’s. Also the Canadian Army used to practice arial spraying of agent orange and agent purple up ’till 1985in a large base in South Central NB.
All the poor buggers involved got together – after the health effects became obvious, and usually fatal – and formed a group called the Sprayers of Dioxin and sued. They’ve been intermittently in the news since then and they just settled it in the last 5 years, I think. Of course there weren’t many of them left to collect the settlement.
One of my first jobs (1986, IIRC) was to review the scientific literature around dioxin poisoning, and most of the scientific sources at the time seemed to write it off as nothing more than a skin condition called chloracne that was really no big deal with no longer term issues likely with moderate exposure. I always wondered how Dow managed to insert that into the scientific discussion.
Circling back to the thread topic, I’ve always thought food was too cheap, and that forces (allows?) farms create these massive externalities around pollution, etc that shifts the cost to the public. I reckon that pricing these externalities like water use, toxic pollution, CO2, etc are going to be the key political battles of the next hundred years and likely will cause a few civil wars as rich countries export their pollution to places like China and Nigeria, to name a couple that are in the news lately.
dude, how is that thing at melting snow, i coulda used one of those things round ere last winter.
Beth in VA
You don’t have to be over 40. Google Dow dioxin and you get some very recent clean-up news:
or Google Dow and Agent Orange
One result found this very recent report from the Vietnam Veterans of America site:
I live in Florida, so I can’t say for sure, but I suspect it would melt snow in a jiffy. It puts out serious heat.
Check this humorous review for a better idea.
I don’t think we really even need to understand the chemistry. If companies are A) supporting their customers’ purchases of competitors products and B) producing crops resistant to their own products / former products, we’ve got a system in serious weirdness. (That first ones really sounds like things have somebody worried at corporate.) And beyond the ecological / biological twistedness and fragility look at the dastardly economics. Consciously or not they’re pesticiding themselves into a dominant market position: you’ve got to buy our chemicals to deal with the superweeds and then you’ve got to buy our crops to deal with the chemicals.
I think the real problem here is that Monsanto is in an arms race with evolution, and evolution is KICKING MONSANTO’S ASS.
It’s just that it’s kicking the REST of our asses at the same time.
Hint to Monsanto execs who may be browsing this forum: weeds have had millions of years to perfect what you are fumblingly, haltingly trying to get a fundamental grasp of with not even a journeyman’s training or experience. The hubris is staggering. And yes, that means that any of you harboring stupid Creationist nonsense need to jettison that shit pronto if you expect to even understand the game you’re playing.
Monsanto’s products should be summarily banned across the US. Obviously they are causing more harm than good could ever come of them.
@fucen tarmal: Agribusiness is intelligent design.
And evolution is kicking its ass.
Edit: Damn you, Slippy!
Well said. Unfortunately greed trumps good sense in this culture. We’re all serfs now.
@scav: OK, clearly I’m at my most tinnhatty here about companies, but they do get my back hairs up.
@slippy: Agreed: The problem is that Monsanto’s trying to monopolize nature. They’ve even sued farmers for growing seed that Monsanto crops wind-pollinated– and won. They are creepy as fuck.
@fuddmain: That’s badass. I want one.
If by failed you mean extraordinarily successful in taking over huge swathes of the earth’s ecosystems and energy flows. Then yes, failed species.
(I do know that this suggests we will be on top for a period of time that is evanescent in geological terms. The dinosaur age was nearly 150 million years.)
Careful what you say about Monsanto. They sue. I’m sure glad I live in a state with strong anti-slap suit laws. Fuck you, Monsanto.
I hope you don’t mind when your argument gets applied to increasing CO2 and Global climate change – evolution will take care of it, so we don’t need to bother changing our behavior.
I would suggest: beware of making large changes to complicated systems. The law of unintended consequences is often enforced where it is least desired.
Over 40, went to agricultural college in the early 80’s. Hairs standing on end, chills down my spine. Monsanto are creepy as ef and evil as ef. They have successfully patented some genes (including a breast cancer gene, which they CHARGE $ cancer researchers to use in their search for a cure), and have been trying to patent more. Last I heard they lost because somebody realized that genes are a product of nature.
Slippy: what you said.
2-4 d was (and maybe still is, I don’t know) the favorite defoliant of the timber industry in the NW in the back-to-the-land hippy days. For the first few years after planting conifers they spray from helicopters to knock back the faster-growing broadleaf trees.
The incident of tumors in the alternative communities was just freaky, at least in my limited experience (I never lived in one but knew many who did). Out of a community of 40 young people 4 could die of cancer.
The industry claimed this was due to pot smoking.
The eventual response was a pseudo-environmentalist land use system that “protected farms and forests” [from hippies] and left industry free to do what it would unobserved.
I would just note that 2-4D is not some military-grade stuff only ever used to clear jungle. It was a component of Agent Orange, but not the controversial one.
2-4D is the most common herbicide on the planet. It goes under names such as Weed-b-Gone, PAR III, Trillion, Tri-Kill, Killtex and Weedaway. Chances are, if you’ve ever used a herbicide to kill weeds in your lawn, you’ve sprayed 2-4D.
It is used on wheat, which has no roundup-resistant variety, it is in almost all lawn herbicides, it is sprayed along roadsides, it is used in hayfields.
@Mark S.: The one thing I like about this is that both Anderson Cooper and Chris Matthews basically told Brown he was nuts. In fact, Matthews was pretty literal about calling him crazy on Hardball. My favorite part of the Cooper interview was when Brown started whining about how the feds and Obama delayed the help, just like how Bush left Brown “sitting in New Orleans”.
The guy is a WATB who found a meme that Fox News liked and the other networks decided to grill him to make him look like an idiot. Cooper looked like he wanted to tell the man to shut up, but the best way to get Brown to shut up is to not have him on all three networks at five different times in one day.
you don’t have a kudzu problem, you have a goat deficiency.
Once again it’s like a Porky Pig cartoon: get a cat to get rid of the mice, then you need a dog to get rid of the cat, then you need something to get rid of the dog…
Skinner: Well, I was wrong; the lizards are a godsend.
Lisa: But isn’t that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we’re overrun by lizards?
Skinner: No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They’ll wipe out the lizards.
Lisa: But aren’t the snakes even worse?
Skinner: Yes, but we’re prepared for that. We’ve lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
Lisa: But then we’re stuck with gorillas!
Skinner: No, that’s the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.
We’re pretty screwed.
I’m more and more convinced that the apocalypse will be brought about by human stupidity.
@catclub: Get your words out of my mouth. You have an argument to make, it is YOUR argument not mine.
Death Panel Truck
Oh, Jesus Christ on a cracker…I grew up on a wheat farm in the Pacific Northwest. We used 2,4-D mixed with water every spring on more than 5,000 acres of winter and spring wheat. I breathed in the mixture’s vapors dozens of times. My dad worked with 2,4-D for decades, lived to be 84, and died of Parkinson’s Disease. As far as I know, 2,4-D doesn’t cause that. I am perfectly healthy, and so are my brothers. 2,4,5-T, used in Agent Orange, is contaminated with TCDD; 2,4-D is not. Is 2,4-D toxic to humans? Apparently so. But don’t make uninformed comparisons to 2,4,5-T. It and 2,4-D are not the same thing.
Tom in TN
@xephyr: Hey, a fellow Midlander! I grew up in Midland as well, MHS class of ’77. My Dad worked at Dow, so I got the full company line on everything they did. Some of their positions made sense, most of it was just overt denialism.
My Dad still refuses to believe chloroflurocarbons caused ozone depletion, for example, despite having a PhD in Chemistry and my pointing out much of the research on the subject. The corporate culture at Dow demanded rigid obedience to the company line.
This is why I don’t wash my hands.
@Death Panel Truck:
The literature the hippy settlers would had out against forest spraying would always cite “2,4-Dand2,4,5-D”. They never distinguished between the two and I never looked into it. So maybe the ill effects were solely from the 2,4,5 part.
Or maybe they were from pot.
@Yutsano: Or, grab some bacon, or sausage and have nice sauté of field greens.
@Tom in TN:
Hi ya Tom! Class of 70 here – but from BC south of town. Yeah, all our Dad’s worked there eh? Mine was a chemist too, later a Director at Dow Corning. I liked growing up there, but Dow was pretty much god. My Dad used to be a mugwump, but we converted him somewhere along the way – he’s been progressive for a long time now.
(btw, I’m at a different computer here, so it logs me in as JSpencer, not xephyr)
@Nerull. True. If you use any kind of “suburban lawn weed-n-feed,” you’re using 2-4D. It’s used to kill broadleaf plants like dandelion, thistle, clover, etc.
It’s very effective. It also breaks down to regular organics within just a couple of days. I stopped using the weed-n-feed type products because I was putting herbicides where i didn’t need them. Now I have a small squirt bottle that i walk around with and give just a small dose directly on the invasive weeds.
J. Michael Neal
Speaking of super weeds, there’s an old scifi book from the 40’s by Ward Moore, called Greener Than You Think, which is pretty entertaining. It’s even available as a free e-book from Project Gutenberg.
Its already too late by my understanding. The genes Monsanto played with have cross pollinated with non-GM plants.
I think its “Cats Cradle” That Vonnegut wrote about a scientist that creates a chemical that causes things to freeze. Everything is fine until it gets out into the wild. It can’t be stopped.
Monsanto has done something like that I think.
Hey, it’s a growth industry. I myself am developing a strain of sorghum that is impervious to a proprietary cocktail of disodium methyl arsonate, Greek Fire and bullets.
This stuff freaks me out, and it’s is I kind of hope Bacigalupi’s ‘The Windup Girl’ wins the Hugo this year, even though I liked ‘Julian Comstock’ better.
While we’re all freaking out over terrorism, peak oil, internet censorship and wingnuts, Agribusiness is going to quietly go about destroying the entire ecosystem and by extension the world economic and political maps before we even know what’s happened.
The stuff in ‘The Calorie Man’ freaked me out worse than a zombie flick;
Hmm. For those folks who can’t stomach Darwin’s theories of evolution, I’m curious why “God” would be complicit in creating Round-Up resistant weeds when his peeps are just trying to grow cheap food. What up, Yahweh? Whose team are you on? (Sorry, “On whose team are you?”) Evolution happens, despite your silly superstitions and stories. Way to go, Midwesterners/Dow/etc.
RAD, a midwesterner who escaped
This, this, a thousand fucking times this!!
Look at the Wiki link posted above. Agent Orange was a 1:1 mixture of the iso-octyl esters of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, not the acids themselves. Esters have substantially different chemical behaviors than their corresponding acids. And when the esters in question are so damned long chained, that only exacerbates the differences.
As was also noted elsewhere, the problem was 2,4,5-T, or more to the point, the TCDD that is a nearly inescapable by-product of its synthesis. The TCDD will not participate in the subsequent esterification to form the Agent Orange component, and apparently was not (or was not attempted to be) removed by purification techniques. Hence its presence in the final product.
I’m also surprised it was barely noted that they sale of plants genetically engineered to resist the effects of the herbicides. The Round-Up resistant weeds may well be an artifact of that GE resistance escaping into the wild as much as natural selection of the weed population at large.
Awesome book isn’t it?
I lived in Clute, TX (home of Dow Chemical) for a while, and I can tell you that this news isn’t surprising.
They have been waiting to use the Rainbow Defoliants again in a commercial capacity since they were banned… also Dow Chemical is pushing for DDT to be used “in the battle against malaria”.
Did I mention, Clute TX is home of “The Great Texas Mosquito Festival”… so where do you think they are gonna start testing that DDT again?
Had to laugh. After one of our gigantic blizzards here in NoVa this winter, one Darwin Awards wannabe used a blowtorch to melt the deep snow on his roof. Of course he set the roof on fire and did something like $500K of damage to his McMansion.
Seems like I read it a hundred years ago, I may have to pick it up again. I used to really get a charge out of Vonnegut, When I found out that he was actually held prisoner in slaughter house 5 I was stunned & had to reread the book.
If I remember the end of ‘Cradle’ the protagonist, seeing the end of the world coming climes the last unfrozen mountain, lays down & raise his middle finger to the sky just as the thing (what was it that caused the freezing?) reaches him. Great book from a great story teller.