Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Ah but this story actually gets a lot better when you dig a little further.  The plot thickens -- or sickens -- or both...

Glyphosate/Fusarium Connection:

WASHINGTON, Aug 20 (IPS) - Scientists are expressing alarm after finding elevated amounts of potentially toxic fungal moulds in food crops sprayed with a common weed killer widely used with genetically engineered (GE) plants.

Roundup, produced by food-industry giant Monsanto, contains a chemical called glyphosate that researchers are blaming for increased amounts of fusarium head blight, a fungus of often very toxic moulds that occurs naturally in soils and occasionally invades crops, but is usually held in check by other microbes.

If true, the allegations could not only call into question the world's number one weed killer, but they also jeopardise global acceptance of Monsanto's flagship line of genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops.

Those crops are themselves unaffected by the Roundup weed killer, which kills all competing plants, such as weeds, in the same area.

Monsanto has been producing a series of GE Roundup Ready seed stock for various crops, including cotton, soybean, wheat and corn, to be used exclusively with their successful glyphosate weed killer Roundup. But because they are genetically engineered, the crops have not found easy acceptance in many countries outside the United States, and they are still banned in Canada and Europe.

A four-year study found that wheat treated with glyphosate appeared to have higher levels of fusarium than wheat fields where no glyphosate had been applied, said Myriam Fernandez of the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre in Swift Current, in Canada's Saskatchewan province.

Google for "glyphosate fusarium" and you find a number of other links, including many hand-waving denials by various "Monsanto representatives".

Glyphosate and other powerful weedkillers are almost inevitable in monocrop agriculture because the monocrop is a wildly unbalanced system, incapable of self-regulation.  "Weeds" live fairly amicably alongside food crops useful to humans in diverse dense polyculture, but to "optimise" use of a huge land parcel by planting it exclusively in one cash crop requires draconian elimination of all "competitors" (and this again is a madness deriving from a neoDarwinist ideological mindset which believes only in competition, not in symbiosis).  Eliminating "weeds" also eliminates the cycle of succession planting and green manuring that keeps soil viable, and ... well, here we go.  

A biotic system is not a factory;  industrial agriculture tries to impose the factory template onto a biotic system;  the result is an ever-escalating round of bandaids to address a never-ending series of disasters.  Compared to the idiocy of plantation industrial ag, the old practise of killing the king every year and burying him in the corn field looks like rock-solid sanity.

Recommended reading:  Biomimicry by Benyus, especially Ch 2, "How Will We Feed Ourselves?" -- a good overview of the lunacy of monocrop agriculture and the robustness of dense polyculture.  Of particular interest is the Land Institute's experimentation with "edible prairie," a very promising form of permaculture.

Note again that fusarium is a naturally occuring fungus normally held in check (in balance, in other words) by other microbial populations.  Plantation ag specialises in destroying the microbial population of the soil, rendering it a sterile "growing medium" salted with artificial fertilisers.  What it does is essentially to kill off all the antibodies, white blood cells, etc. -- and then wring its hands and act shocked, shocked I tell you, when the patient's compromised immune system collapses.

The plantation monocrop model is inherently futile.  However, it is the most "efficient" way of stripmining soil resources and funneling profit into the hands of rentiers.  Capitalism requires the plantation monocrop model to ensure (temporarily, anyway) delusional rates of return on loans.  But the rate of return is contrabiotic, hence the agriculture method is contrabiotic, therefore doomed.  Finance capitalism has to give way to biotic reality, or experience a Jared Diamond Collapse due to its own pigheaded insistence on the primacy of imaginary money over real biology...  The banana is just one poster child for this process, there are plenty of others.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri May 23rd, 2008 at 12:58:30 PM EST

Others have rated this comment as follows:


Occasional Series