Tag Archives: herbicides

Report: USDA scientists harassed for questioning Roundup’s safety

A watchdog organization is calling on the U.S. Senate and House agriculture committees and the inspector general at the USDA to investigate a possible coverup for Monsanto and whether USDA scientists were harassed for questioning the safety of Roundup and other Big Ag products.

The call from U.S. Right to Know for review follows a report on March 27 from Reuters news service, which cited a claim from the the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility: “Some scientists working for the federal government are finding their research restricted or censored when it conflicts with agribusiness industry interests…. At least 10 USDA scientists have been investigated or faced other consequences arising from research that called into question the safety of certain agricultural chemicals…. Research into glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, and neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been linked to honey bee and monarch butterfly endangerment, face particular scrutiny…”

Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know, said, “If true, this is a major scandal at USDA. It is not the proper role of the USDA to engage in a cover up for Monsanto or other agrichemical companies.”

He continued, “It is intolerable that the agribusiness and agrichemical should be able to interfere with USDA scientists and their work. Those scientists work for the public, not Monsanto nor the agrichemical industry.”

Letters from the group to House and Senate committee members and the USDA Inspector General asked for an investigation into alleged “corporate interference with USDA scientists,” as well as for the release of any evidence of industry interference with USDA scientists.

Earlier this month, U.S. Right to Know released “Seedy Business,” a report on the chemical-food industry’s $100 million campaign to keep consumers in the dark about genetically engineered food: how they manipulated the media, public opinion, science and politics.

Study: GE crops threaten monarch butterflies

The Center for Food Safety this week released a detailed scientific report revealing the severe impacts of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered crops on the monarch butterfly population, which has plummeted over the past two decades.

The CFS said the report, “Monarchs in Peril: Herbicide-Resistant Crops and the Decline of Monarch Butterflies in North America,” makes it clear that two decades of Roundup Ready crops have nearly eradicated milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s sole source of food, in cropland of the monarch’s vital Midwest breeding ground.

At the request of scientists and public interest groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently is considering listing the monarch as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The CFS has presented the report to Congress for a briefing on the decline of the once common butterflies.

“This report is a wake-up call. This iconic species is on the verge of extinction because of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crop system,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. “To let the monarch butterfly die out in order to allow Monsanto to sell its signature herbicide for a few more years is simply shameful.”

Monarch population numbers have fallen by 90 percent in less than 20 years. This year’s population was the second lowest since careful surveys began two decades ago. The critical driver of monarch decline is the loss of larval host plants in their main breeding habitat, the Midwestern Corn Belt. Monarchs lay eggs exclusively on plants in the milkweed family, the only food their larvae will eat.

Monarch butterflies have long coexisted with agriculture, but the proliferation of herbicide-resistant GE crops is threatening that balance. Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready corn and soybeans have radically altered farming practices, sharply increasing the extent, frequency and intensity of glyphosate use on farm land. Glyphosate — one of the very few herbicides that kills common milkweed — was little used two decades ago, but has become by far the most heavily used herbicide in America thanks to GE Roundup Ready crops. As a result, corn and soybean fields in the Corn Belt have lost 99 percent of their milkweed since just 1999.

“The alarming decline of monarchs is driven in large part by the massive spraying of glyphosate herbicide on genetically engineered crops, which has virtually eliminated monarch habitat in the corn and soybean fields that dominates the Midwest landscape,” stated Bill Freese, Center for Food Safety science policy analyst and co-author of the report. “Glyphosate is the monarch’s enemy number one. To save this remarkable species, we must quickly boost milkweed populations and curtail the use of herbicide-resistant crop systems.” 

Milkweed grows outside of cropland, but there is too little habitat to support a viable monarch population. First, corn and soybeans dominate the Midwest landscape, leaving little area in roadsides, pastures and other land where milkweed grows. Second, monarchs produce almost four times more eggs per plant on milkweed within agricultural fields than on milkweed growing elsewhere.

“Milkweed growing in Midwest cropland is essential to the monarch’s continued survival. Without milkweed, we’ll have no monarchs,” said Dr. Martha Crouch, biologist with Center for Food Safety and co-author of the report.

As the monarch population declines other threats have greater impacts, and the butterflies are less likely to bounce back from adversity, according to the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The groups, along with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and scientist Lincoln Brower, filed a legal petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect monarchs as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

In December 2014, the FWS announced that ESA listing may be warranted.

Conservationists warn of monarch butterfly decline

Conservation experts this week announced that a record low number of monarch butterflies returned this year to wintering grounds in the mountains of Mexico and their annual migration is at “serious risk of disappearing.”

Monarchs, which migrate from Mexico across North America and back every year, have been in serious decline since the 1990s.

Experts believe the widespread use of glyphosate weed killer, sold as Round-Up, in connection with genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant corn and soybeans, may be destroying once-widespread milkweed, which monarchs rely on exclusively for reproduction.

“This news raises a disturbing question that can no longer be ignored: Are our actions causing the rapidly dwindling population of monarchs?” said Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We must urgently review the widespread use of glyphosate, which may be wiping out milkweed plants, essential for the Monarchs’ survival. It would be heartbreaking if we inadvertently destroyed in just a few years the millennia-old miracle of the Monarchs’ unique migration.”

The NRDC said Mexico estimated the winter population of monarchs at 33.5 million individuals. The estimate is a huge drop from a high of 1 billion in 1997 and down from a long-term average of 350 million over the last 15 years.

The decline also also epresents the ninth consecutive yearly measurement below the long-term average, according to the nonprofit enviromental group.