Farmers succeed in developing herbicide-resistant SuperWeeds

Thanks to glyphosate-resistant genetically modified seeds from Monsanto, farmers in the US have been able to vastly increase their use of glyphosate (the main ingredient in the weed-killer RoundUp), and hasten the evolution of common weeds into new, herbicide-resistant superweeds.  These SuperWeeds are out of control in areas of the midwest and Kansas.  Well done, farmers!

This is exactly the sort of outcome logic would predict, so let’s hope they intended to do that and aren’t instead just focused on their short-term profits.  Umm, yeah.  I think the only surprise would be that the weeds adapted so quickly…I’m sure Monsanto was hoping for a few more decades of profits to be had from that RoundUp/Seed combination!

Read more here: Farmers Fight Explosion of “Superweeds” – Scientific American.

Comcast turning homes into public wifi hotspots

Comcast seems to be intent on solidifying their position as Worst Company in America (a title they somehow managed to beat Monsanto and Sea World for!).  Not only is there a public uproar over their attempt to take over Time-Warner cable, but now, as  TechCruch reports, Comcast plans to turn their customers’ homes into public wifi hotspots, by turning on that feature in their cable modems.  It’s an ‘opt-out’ feature too, so many customers may not even be aware that this is happening.

Why does this matter?  Maybe it doesn’t.  I use a ‘guest network’ feature in my own wireless router, and I have no concerns about this providing a backdoor into my personal network.  However, there are two things to consider.  First, the electricity being used to provide this feature is being paid for by the homeowner (though it’s probably pretty minimal).  Second, and more troubling, is what happens if someone on your public wifi hotspot uses that connection for illegal activity?  It’ll be traced back to your IP address, and will be your mess to deal with.  Your best case scenario there is that Comcast would have tracked the hotspot user’s MAC address and would be willing to provide you with an exceptional level of communication and support to help you defend yourself in court (good luck with that…).

I’m fortunate to live in a town not ‘serviced’ by Comcast…though with the way they’re growing, I fear it’s only a matter of time before they arrive.

RNAi GMO – RNA-interference GM crops

There’s a new category of genetically modified crops on the horizon that utilize a technique known as RNAi, or RNA interference.  For a recap of what RNA does, check out wikipedia, but in summary: it’s primarily a messenger, carrying instructions from DNA to control the synthesis of proteins.  RNAi is an attempt to interfere with this process; an insect (the corn root worm, in this case) takes up small siRNA (small interfering ribonucleic acid molecules) from a corn plant, which then turn off the production of critical proteins in those pests, killing them.  It’s a pretty amazing technology, and one that’s also being explored in the fight against cancer, to interfere with cell division of cancerous cells.

So there lies the concern.  The medical field is looking at ways to help the human body absorb those siRNA molecules.  The food industry wants the opposite, for there’s justifiably a lot of uncertainty and concern about the effect this may have on the body.  Some scientific studies have indicated that the body might be absorbing this, most find no evidence of that.  It seems much of the uncertainty comes from the difficulty in detecting these very small molecules in the first place.  There is also uncertainty about what other insects may be harmed by this (one study found that ladybugs were one victim).  On the plus side, this has the potential to reduce or eliminate two techniques currently employed – spraying crops with Roundup (that then gets into our food supply), or using corn that is genetically modified to produce BT Toxin (which we then consume).

Monsanto is convinced they’ve studied the issue enough, and have applied for approval to sell this new corn variant.  There still seems to be quite a bit of valid scientific debate over that subject…but if history has taught us anything, it’s that big business will win out over science and public health concerns.

You can read more about this at the NY Times or in the Boulder Weekly.

Do you realize you’re consuming Roundup?

soy-beansHigh levels of glyphosate (the weed-killing chemical in Roundup) have been found to be present in genetically engineered soy beans (all tested samples were grown in Iowa).  It’s not terribly surprising, for one of the main reasons crops like soy are genetically engineered in the first place is to be resistant to Roundup, so that they may be sprayed with that to control weeds.  The chemicals get on the food, the food ends up on your plate…simple as that.  It’s not something you can just wash off either, as glyphosate is absorbed by the plant, it’s inside your food.

The study (here’s a link to the source) found levels of Roundup to be 9mg per kilogram, which is double what Monsanto themselves deemed ‘extreme’ way back in 1999 (link).  The level deemed ‘safe’ by governments is 20mg/kg in the US…but the interesting thing is that it used to be 0.1mg/kg until it was raised in 1999.  Europe did the same, raising the ‘safe’ limit from 0.1 to 20mg/kg in 199.  Brazil raised their ‘safe’ level from 0.2mg/kg to 10mg/kg in 2004 (but only for soybeans!).  There is justifiably concern that the ‘safe’ levels were not raised based on scientific evidence, but rather for business reasons.

The study looked at a total of 31 soy samples, some were GM (qty 10), some were conventional soybeans (qty 10), and others were organic soybeans (qty 10).  Without exception, all GM samples showed high levels of glyphosate, and none was detected in the non-GM samples.

So why is this a big deal?  Well it’s not a chemical that has been scientifically shown to be safe…and quite the opposite, there are concerns that there may be a link between glysphosate and digestive issues, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s, depression, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, and cancer.  Note that none of that is proven, just that there does appear to be some biological disruption caused by glyphosate, and that sort of biological disruption may explain the above.  There’s a bunch of health-related information at this link or this one.

This trend of shipping untested product like this and making us all human guinea pigs is really disturbing.  The reality is that if there IS any link here ever proven, it will be impossible to hold anyone accountable.  Hence no incentive for people to do real, scientific testing beforehand.

It probably goes without saying, but…I recommend buying organic food whenever you can!

You can read more about this here.

(original source)

Roundup herbicide linked to cancer, autism, parkinson’s alzheimer’s

Well I think the title says it all…Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is really nasty stuff that studies are showing has a link to some really nasty human diseases.  Add to that the increased use of crops that have been genetically modified to be roundup-resistant, and you should start being concerned about the safety of your food supply.  Do yourself a favor and either buy organic foods, or grow your own vegetables!  (read more at The Good Human)

Can GMO be a good thing?

“Genetically Modified” is a term that can mean a lot when it comes to plants, and I think that’s going to be an interesting issue in coming years.  On the one hand, Monsanto is modifying corn to produce a pesticide, and the idea of eating that scares me (just a warning, you’re probably already eating this!).  However, there are applications for GM plants that I’m more supportive of.  For example, scientists are working on making plants more drought-tolerant.  Considering how human-caused climate changed is predicted to alter future weather patterns, and the increasing demand for food due to a rising global population, I think GM applications like this will be necessary.  They also seem to pose less risk to consumers.  However, I fear that consumers will reject ALL GM foods based upon the results of some of the more scary ones, rather than open their minds to the idea that some GM foods may be OK.  History has shown that it’s not a matter of using science to show whether foods are safe or not; just look at how many Americans reject the indisputable science behind climate change.  This is more of an emotional and social issue, and I honestly don’t know what the answer is…but I do think this is a debate we’ll be having in coming years.

Genetically Engineered Crops

If you’re not sure what all the fuss is about genetically modified crops, you owe it to yourself to check out this quick (4 minute) video that does a great job of explaining the issue:

I’m all for improving our lives through science, but GM foods is not about that…it’s about improving corporate profits through science without scientifically examining what possible effects this has on the species affected by this technology (not just the animals that eat the crops, us, but the animals that live where these crops are grown).

Walmart to sell genetically modified corn

The ingredients in processed foods are already a bit of a mystery, but what about that fresh produce you’re buying?  Most people assume it’s natural and safe for consumption.  Well, apart from the pesticide concern (like bud nip), there’s a growing concern that the produce you buy may be genetically modified (a GMO, Genetically Modified Organism).  Why should you care?  Because this is being driven by corporate greed, not science.  The health concerns have not been adequately addressed by science, but this ‘food’ is put up for sale anyway without its true nature being labeled.

This summer, Walmart plans to sell genetically engineered corn on the cob in the fresh produce section.  This engineered corn from Monsanto produces Bt toxin, a pesticide.  Feed this stuff to rats and they get organ failure.  Which somehow means it’s safe for people I guess?

So, if you care about this stuff, what can you do?  First, shop at a store that cares, like Trader Joes or Whole Foods.  Second, ask the produce manager in your local grocery store which items they have for sale are genetically modified (don’t expect them to know, but the point here is to raise consciousness and let them know their customers care about this issue).  Third, sign this petition to send a signal to Walmart.  Oh, and fourth…plant a garden and grow as much of your own food as possible, to at least minimize the scientific anomalies you introduce to your digestive tract.

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