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Author Topic:   Agent Orange Corn
herebedragons
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Message 1 of 47 (666261)
06-25-2012 9:42 AM


In 1996, the first Roundup Ready crops (soybeans) were released to market in the U.S. Roundup Ready crops virtually eliminated the need to till fields which reduced erosion and the runoff of pesticides and fertilizers. It also reduced the usage of fossil fuels needed for plowing prior to planting. No-till agriculture was quickly embraced as an environmentally friendly, cost effective technique.

However, in the 20 or so years since the introduction of Roundup Ready crops, the weeds have developed a genetic modification program of their own. At least 23 weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup), 30 to 2,4-D (the most widely used herbicide in the world), 69 to Atrazine, and 125 to Chlorsulfuron. In total, there are some 388 known herbicide resistant biotypes. source

Now, Dow Chemical is seeking approval of a new genetically modified corn under the brand name Enlist which is immune to the herbicide 2,4-D. The promise of this new GMO is that farmers will be able to treat fields with mixtures of herbicides (in this case, specifically glyphosate and 2,4-D mixtures) and thus have a broader range of weed kill. Critics are referring to this new GM crop as Agent Orange corn because 2,4-D was one of the ingredients used in Agent Orange.

***A short primer on Agent Orange for those who may be unfamiliar: Agent Orange was part of a series of herbicide / defoliants used during the Vietnam War; the so called Rainbow Herbicides (there was Agent Blue, Purple, Pink, White, Green and Orange). Orange was the most widely used and was a 50:50 mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, both of which are relatively safe herbicides with only moderate toxicity. However, it was discovered that Agent Orange produced before 1970 was contaminated with an extremely toxic dioxin 2,3,7,8-TCDD due to the manufacturing process. It was TCDD that was primarily responsible for the problems and subsequent reputation of Agent Orange and tighter manufacturing controls significantly reduced contamination. But contamination could not be completely eliminated and so the use of 2,4,5-T was completely terminated in 1985. It is therefore, somewhat misleading to refer to the new GM corn as Agent Orange corn as it has only one of the ingredients used in Agent Orange and is not contaminated with the dioxin TCDD. A fairly typical scare tactic.

That said, our dependence on chemicals is changing our world at an unprecedented rate. To have over 20 plants evolve the resistance to such a potent herbicide as glyphosate in 20 years is remarkable and a rather frightening forecast for the future. The potential for further evolution or genetic escapes is a major cause of concern. So is feeding an ever expanding human population in a world where resources are becoming more and more scarce.

The question(s) is/are: How far should we go with genetically modified foods? Are we improving our lives or inviting disaster? Can we balance environmental benefits such as no-till farming with the dangers of pesticide use?

I am not so much interested in political or social opinions, but how we could approach this problem from a scientific or practical perspective.

Not sure what forum this belongs in ... miscellany perhaps?


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Message 2 of 47 (666263)
06-25-2012 10:56 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Agent Orange Corn thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
New Cat's Eye
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Message 3 of 47 (666270)
06-25-2012 11:57 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by herebedragons
06-25-2012 9:42 AM


The question(s) is/are: How far should we go with genetically modified foods? Are we improving our lives or inviting disaster? Can we balance environmental benefits such as no-till farming with the dangers of pesticide use?

I am not so much interested in political or social opinions, but how we could approach this problem from a scientific or practical perspective.

Full speed ahead; let's see how much we can squeeze out of this puppy!

We're not going to improve our lives without inviting disaster.

What's so dangerous about pesticide use?


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 Message 1 by herebedragons, posted 06-25-2012 9:42 AM herebedragons has responded

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Coragyps
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Posts: 5266
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 4 of 47 (666272)
06-25-2012 12:25 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by New Cat's Eye
06-25-2012 11:57 AM


What's so dangerous about pesticide use?

The biggest danger is the one HBD mentions - encouraging the evolution of bugs that you can't kill with anything short of two bricks, or weeds that you must pull out individually. I'm not worried about eating "frankenfoods" nearly as much as having no food.

If the grasshoppers eat all the barley, where will Guiness come from?

Edited by Coragyps, : clarify


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New Cat's Eye
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Message 5 of 47 (666273)
06-25-2012 12:33 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Coragyps
06-25-2012 12:25 PM


The biggest danger is the one HBD mentions - encouraging the evolution of bugs that you can't kill with anything short of two bricks.

Aren't we talking about weeds though? Weed killers are still pesticides.

I'm not worried about eating "frankenfoods" nearly as much as having no food.

Is there really a threat of 'no food' from artificially evolved weeds? Seems to me the biggest ramification would be having to bust the tiller back out.


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Coragyps
Member
Posts: 5266
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 6 of 47 (666275)
06-25-2012 12:44 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by New Cat's Eye
06-25-2012 12:33 PM


I edited post #4 to include weeds - it's just whether the pest is in Plantae or Animalia, anyway. And yes, we can go back to hoeing cotton and smashing boll weevils, and perhaps help unemployment in places by doing so. But you should see some of the cotton fields and their associated dust storms out here in the High Plains of Texas. No-till cotton farming actually captures Wal-Mart sacks instead of letting them blow to Georgia - and holds most of the dirt that used to accompany the sacks.
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ringo
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Message 7 of 47 (666283)
06-25-2012 1:59 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by New Cat's Eye
06-25-2012 12:33 PM


Catholic Scientist writes:

Is there really a threat of 'no food' from artificially evolved weeds?


We'll have to learn to eat the weeds.
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New Cat's Eye
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From: near St. Louis
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Member Rating: 1.9


Message 8 of 47 (666284)
06-25-2012 2:19 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Coragyps
06-25-2012 12:44 PM


I edited post #4 to include weeds - it's just whether the pest is in Plantae or Animalia, anyway.

Sure, so is there really a threat of 'no food' from artificially evolved weeds?

And yes, we can go back to hoeing cotton and smashing boll weevils, and perhaps help unemployment in places by doing so. But you should see some of the cotton fields and their associated dust storms out here in the High Plains of Texas. No-till cotton farming actually captures Wal-Mart sacks instead of letting them blow to Georgia - and holds most of the dirt that used to accompany the sacks.

I don't doubt that there will be some negative consequences. Look, I could argue this one either way, so I'll stake a specific position.

From the OP:

quote:
That said, our dependence on chemicals is changing our world at an unprecedented rate. To have over 20 plants evolve the resistance to such a potent herbicide as glyphosate in 20 years is remarkable and a rather frightening forecast for the future. The potential for further evolution or genetic escapes is a major cause of concern. So is feeding an ever expanding human population in a world where resources are becoming more and more scarce.

The question(s) is/are: How far should we go with genetically modified foods? Are we improving our lives or inviting disaster? Can we balance environmental benefits such as no-till farming with the dangers of pesticide use?

I am not so much interested in political or social opinions, but how we could approach this problem from a scientific or practical perspective.


In my opinion, the scientific or practical perspective on genetically modifying foods for herbicide resistance in an effort towards better weed killing is "full speed ahead".

Having extra dirt in Texas doesn't seem to be an argument against that


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New Cat's Eye
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Posts: 11251
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
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Message 9 of 47 (666287)
06-25-2012 2:24 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by ringo
06-25-2012 1:59 PM


Catholic Scientist writes:

Is there really a threat of 'no food' from artificially evolved weeds?


We'll have to learn to eat the weeds.

I remember the first time I had a spring mix salad at a fancy restaurant, I saw some of these guys in there:

I was all: "WTF, aren't these dandelions!?"

And the waiter was like: "Yes, yes they are ".

I thought it was funny that they were feeding me the weeds that we tried to keep killed in our backyard.

Anyways, yeah, we could eat the weeds. But too, we could just go back to tilling if the GM-ing against herbicides doesn't work out. I don't really see this as a reason to stifle scientific progress.


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Coragyps
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Posts: 5266
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 10 of 47 (666305)
06-25-2012 5:19 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by New Cat's Eye
06-25-2012 2:19 PM


Having extra dirt in Texas doesn't seem to be an argument against that.

No, it's an argument for "Roundup Ready" plants - no-till is way less wasteful of both dust and diesel than traditional farming. I just share the OP's concern that when we breed herbicide/insecticide "immune" pests, we will be in some degree of trouble - like we are with multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis.

I guess I don't mind sharing some of our dirt, but dealing with all of it that fails to escape and blows into the house every spring is a pain in the butt.


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New Cat's Eye
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From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
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Message 11 of 47 (666312)
06-25-2012 8:15 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Coragyps
06-25-2012 5:19 PM


I just share the OP's concern that when we breed herbicide/insecticide "immune" pests, we will be in some degree of trouble - like we are with multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis.

I share them too, but in this case improving lives is inviting disaster.

I guess I don't mind sharing some of our dirt, but dealing with all of it that fails to escape and blows into the house every spring is a pain in the butt.

Have you heard about the problems that farmers have in dealing with Monsanto aggressively pursuing them with legal action?


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herebedragons
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Posts: 1298
From: Michigan
Joined: 11-22-2009
Member Rating: 5.0


Message 12 of 47 (666318)
06-25-2012 10:00 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by New Cat's Eye
06-25-2012 11:57 AM


What's so dangerous about pesticide use?

I am not opposed to pesticide use, nor do I think it is particularly dangerous or harmful when used properly. In fact I just finished spraying 2,4-D (aka Agent Orange ) on some poison ivy and some other weeds in my yard that had gotten out of hand. I probably would have dealt with them differently had there not been poison ivy present, but still, I use pesticides when needed.

My concern is similar to the ones raised by MRSA and other antibiotic resistant bacteria. Sure weeds are not generally pathogenic to humans, but do we really want to get into an arms race against nature?

We're not going to improve our lives without inviting disaster.

Granted, any progress comes with some risk. But we need to ask, how much risk should we be willing to take. And should we "invite" disaster?


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herebedragons
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Posts: 1298
From: Michigan
Joined: 11-22-2009
Member Rating: 5.0


Message 13 of 47 (666319)
06-25-2012 10:14 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by ringo
06-25-2012 1:59 PM


We'll have to learn to eat the weeds.

At least one of these so-called "super weeds" is supposedly edible - Amaranthus palmeri or Palmer's pigweed. And it grows up to three meters tall, so there would be plenty to munch on.

Doesn't look too appetizing, but I guess no worse than brussel sprouts, asparagus, okra or kelp.


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herebedragons
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Posts: 1298
From: Michigan
Joined: 11-22-2009
Member Rating: 5.0


Message 14 of 47 (666320)
06-25-2012 10:18 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by New Cat's Eye
06-25-2012 2:19 PM


Sure, so is there really a threat of 'no food' from artificially evolved weeds?

I doubt that the problem will get to the point where there is 'no food'. But I fear it will make it harder and harder for the poorest people to be able to 'afford' food.


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New Cat's Eye
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Posts: 11251
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 1.9


Message 15 of 47 (666322)
06-25-2012 10:20 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by herebedragons
06-25-2012 10:00 PM


My concern is similar to the ones raised by MRSA and other antibiotic resistant bacteria. Sure weeds are not generally pathogenic to humans, but do we really want to get into an arms race against nature?

In this case, i.e. GM-modifying crops against weeds, I say "Yes". Weeds ain't gonna do that. Other places warrant more caution.

Granted, any progress comes with some risk. But we need to ask, how much risk should we be willing to take. And should we "invite" disaster?

In this case, I don't see "weeds" proposing enough threat to warrant stifling scientific progress.


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