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May 17, 2000


herbicide use - 7 contributions


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

Date: May 17 2000 23:24:13 EDT
From: Gordon Couger
Subject: Re: herbicide use

Dr. Shapiro,

I was just talking with my dad and his renter is putting in 5,000 acres of
cotton. All Roundup ready. He will probably spray all of it with Roundup.
If he had not planted it with Rounup Ready seed he would have put down
Prowl or some other yellow herbicide on all 5,000 acres.

I don't think anyone would disagree that Roundup has a lot less impact on
the environment than yellow herbicide. Not only is he using a much safer
herbicide but he is saving at lest 2 and probably 3 trips over the ground
applying and incorporating the yellow herbicide and who knows how many
trips over the ground to keep it from blowing because he has had to get
the land smooth a lot sooner then I does using Roundup.

Some other farmers are planting wheat in the fall and killing it with
Roundup and planting cotton directly in the dead wheat and then spraying
it with round up. This would use more herbicide than
the one trip over with yellow herbicide. BUT, again several applications
of Roundup have less impact on the soil and environment than one
application of yellow herbicide and the soil is protected from wind and
water erosion. Quantifying how much better the soil is protected from
erosion is hard to say because it depends on the year and the soil type it
can range to some to in the case of sandy soil on a little slope a great

Saying how much herbicide you use is meaning less unless you say how much
impact one has in relation to the other. Twenty five years ago my neighbor
dumped a load of Prowl in his cotton field. 10 years ago you could still
see where it was. Nothing grew in it for the first 10 years. I don't know
if it is still there because I haven't looked at it since. I spilled a
pint Roundup concentrate in my yard last year and the only way I can tell
where it happened is there is crab grass there instead of Bermuda. The
Bermuda is growing back from the edges.

This isn't a real popular argument wiht the chemical companies because if
they say one product is safer than another it opens them up to a situation
like this. Please answer the question with yes or no, have you quit
beating your wife?


Gordon Couger gcouger@couger.com

Stillwater, OK www.couger.com/gcouger
405 624-2855 GMT -6:00

From: "Allan D. Shapiro" ashapiro@UDel.Edu

> I have a question that I'm hoping someone subscribing to this list can
> answer. I am an Assistant Professor of plant biology at the University
> Delaware. Yesterday, at the request of a local (Delaware/Philadelphia)
> radio station, I served as a guest on a radio talk show with the other
> guest being Charles Margulis of Greenpeace's biotech division with the
> topic being the science behind the GMO debate. I was chosen largely
> because the radio station wanted an academic from Delaware who does plant
> genetic engineering (Delaware's a pretty small state, not a lot of
> choices), not because I am any sort of acknowledged expert on the issues
> surrounding GMO's. Although the conversation was actually fairly
> and stuck pretty well to the topic, the Greenpeace speaker cited a fact I
> wasn't sure about. He stated that studies have shown that herbicide use
> American farmers is significantly greater on fields planted with
> herbicide-tolerant crops than on those planted with non-transgenic crops.
> I have seen in previous postings to this list a citation of a study
> that total use of agrichemicals has gone down. This isn't precisely the
> same issue. Is anyone familiar with the studies the Greenpeace
> representative cited? Was his information accurate?
> Thanks for the info.
Ø Allan Shapiro


Date: May 18 2000 01:03:26 EDT
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Re: herbicide use

Dear Dr. Shapiro:

Unfortunately, on this point we must admit that Margulis is right.

Greenpeace, the Amsterdam-based multinational activist group which has
allocated roughly $3.3 million to its campaign to prevent the use of
modern genetics in agriculture, has done well in hiring Margulis to
promulgate the notion that we should preserve the historical farming
practices of those in developing countries, who valiantly starve their
children for the noble purpose of resisting the efforts of multinational

Likely the dying gasps of these skeletal children, whose bellies are
improbably swollen with gastric juices which have nothing to digest,
inspire their parents, who are of course noble defenders of substistence
agriculture and want to die an early death just like dear old mom and dad.

If you plant glyphosate-tolerant soybeans, it is of course wise to use
glyphosate herbicide, since it is cheap, effective, and so safe and
compatible with the environment that it is the only herbicide approved for
sensitive uses such as spraying near waterways.

This means, of course, that environmentally-concious farmers who use
glyphosate-tolerant soybeans and maize have increased their use of
glyphosate herbicide. This has resulted in an increased use of an
environmentally-friendly herbicide.

This also means, of course, that Margulis is right: biotech has resulted
in an increased use of herbicide, a herbicide which has proved to be
benign in all its applications, aside from those which involve injecting
the herbicide directly into the wombs of pregnant lab rats.

Dr. Shapiro, the activists have a poltical agenda, and they care little of
the hungry billions, or of the truth, and even less of the environment.

Anti-biotech activists know as much about biotechnology as anyone else,
and study it more closely than most in the industry. As a consequence,
they are in a position to ambush any scientist, using surprising, but
spurious claims. The next time you discuss biotech with an activist who
pretends to be credible, such as Margulis, I suggest you express,
appropriately, a degree of surprise at the activists' bizarre claim, and
ask for supporting data or a citation. You would, in such an instance,
discover that the activist claim is a fun-house mirror distortion of some
study or other which likely has been widely discredited, or some claim by
a credible scientist which has been twisted into something unrecognizable
through some application of the 'precautionary principle.'

You might wonder why environmentalists would protest a "green" technology,
and work so hard at disinformation, but that topic has been belabored and
explained here many times.

But, bottom line, attacking biotech by any means is an ideal way to attack
the mercantile democracy which supplanted the idyllic ideal of medieval
feudalism, to which the eco-reactionaries would wish to return.

Your dedication has been abused by those who care nothing for truth, but
that should not diminish your dedication, not in the least.

Gegen die Dummheit kaempfen die Goetter selbst verlebens (Goethe).

Date: May 18 2000 08:53:47 EDT
From: Simon Barber
Subject: RE: herbicide use

With respect to Allan Shapiro's question on herbicide use in transgenic
herbicide tolerant crops, see the following:

> USDA reports that the use of genetically enhanced crops relative to pest
> management has grown, with soybean growers seeing better yields, no
> in net returns and "significant decreases" in herbicide use, according to
> USDA's Economic Research Service. Bt cotton has increased yields and net
> returns while significantly reducing chemical use.
> The ERS analysis goes through various aspects of chemical use relative to
> GE crops, and offers some facts and figures on what the impacts are to
> returns, chemical use, etc.
> Here's a link to the report from ERS
> <http://www.ers.usda.gov/epubs/pdf/aer786/> (it's in the pdf format).

Simon Barber
Director, Plant Biotechnology Unit
6, Av. de l'Armée - Legerlaan 6
1040 - Brussels
Tel: +32-2 739 11 72
Fax: +32-2 739 11 80
e-mail: s.barber@europa-bio.be

Date: May 18 2000 09:19:07 EDT
From: "Frank Carter"
Subject: Re: herbicide use

This question is one that requires a "in some cases yes, but" answer. I
will try to list some of the relevant points.

"in some cases yes, but"

1. In the case of Roundup Ready cotton, there is a limit to how much
Roundup the plant will tolerate, so there is a built in limit to Roundup

2. Herbicide resistant cotton allows flexibility in weed control. For
example, producers are experimenting with narrow row widths, since weed
control can now be obtained with herbicides rather than tillage with cold
steel and horsepower.

3. Another flexibility allows producers with conventional row spacings
to park or sell cultivators, and go with various forms of conservation
tillage. On the plus side of the environment is reduced tillage, less
surface runoff, less erosion, and reduced use of fossil fuels.

These are some points, there probably are others.

FranK L. Carter, Ph.D.
National Cotton Council
1918 N. Parkway
Memphis, TN 38112
901-274-9030 (Phone/Voice Mail)
901-725-0510 (FAX)

Date: May 18 2000 09:40:46 EDT
From: "Hunst, Penny (PL)"
Subject: RE: herbicide use

Go to the following website...this 1998 message answers some of your


Penny L. Hunst, Ph.D.
Research Scientist
Dow AgroSciences, L.L.C.
9330 Zionsville Rd.
Indianapolis, IN 46268

"Nature's mighty law is change."
Robert Burns

Date: May 18 2000 10:38:32 EDT
From: "John Pierce"
Subject: Re: herbicide use

Please note the attached from Len Giannessi, which has some answers to
your questions.

(See file below: Giannessi RR soybeans.doc)

Details on herbicide usage can be found at


--- --- ---

New Report Quantifies Benefits to U.S. Farmers from Planting

Genetically-Engineered Soybeans

To: National Desk, Environment Reporter Contact: Leonard Gianessi,
202-328-5036, or Janet Carpenter, 202-328-5044, both of the National
Center for Food and Agricultural Policy; Web site: http://www.ncfap.org

WASHINGTON, April 14 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In 1999, half of U.S. soybean
acreage was planted with varieties that had been genetically engineered to
tolerate application of the herbicide glyphosate.

Researchers at the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy
(NCFAP) have just completed a report that analyzes the reasons soybean
growers have chosen to plant the genetically engineered soybean varieties.
Soybean growers were found to save an estimated $220 million in annual
weed control costs due to the introduction of glyphosate-tolerant

The insertion of DNA from a soil bacterium made it possible to spray
glyphosate over growing soybeans to kill weeds without causing harm to the
soybean plants. Glyphosate would otherwise kill conventional soybean
plants by shutting down an enzyme critical for plant development.
Researchers from Monsanto studied soil bacteria and found the same enzyme,
with a difference that glyphosate does not interfere with its functioning.
The bacterial version of the enzyme continues to function after the
application of glyphosate, allowing soybean plants to continue normal
development. Soybean plants contain at least 10,000 different enzymes.

The NCFAP report concludes that U.S. growers have planted the genetically
engineered soybean varieties on a large percentage of soybean acreage
primarily to take advantage of the following benefits:

-- Broad spectrum weed control -- Crop safety -- Flexible treatment timing
-- Cost savings

Herbicides have been used on more than 90 percent of U.S. soybean acreage
for the last 25 years. The NCFAP report compares the efficacy of
glyphosate to 180 available alternative treatments, concluding that
glyphosate controls a significantly larger number of weed species.

Prior to using glyphosate, soybean growers commonly used three to four
different herbicides in the same field for weed control. The report
quantifies the result of growers' ability to substitute one active
ingredient (glyphosate) for alternative treatments that utilized three to
four herbicides: an aggregate net reduction of 16 million acre treatments
with herbicides.

The NCFAP report points out that the glyphosate applications cause less
crop injury to soybean plants than do many of the alternative herbicide
treatments. In addition, glyphosate can be used to kill weeds up to five
to six inches tall while many alternative herbicides are not effective if
the weeds are taller than one to two inches.

The NCFAP report analyzes the costs of using glyphosate for weed control
in soybeans in comparison with the costs of previously-used herbicide
programs. The report notes that glyphosate programs were priced to be
competitive with conventional programs. Since the introduction of
glyphosate-tolerant varieties to the soybean market in 1996, prices of
glyphosate and competitive herbicides have been reduced by their
manufacturers. The report documents a $220 million net reduction in annual
weed control costs for soybean growers in 1998 compared to 1995.

Preparation of the NCFAP report Agricultural Biotechnology: Benefits of
Transgenic Soybeans by Leonard P. Gianessi and Janet E. Carpenter was
supported financially by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

The report is available at NCFAP's website: www.ncfap.org

------ The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy is a private,
non-profit, non-advocacy research organization.

-0- /U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/



Copyright (c) 2000 U.S. Newswire Corp. Received by NewsEdge Insight:
04/14/2000 09:37:58

Date: May 18 2000 05:07:43 EDT
From: Douglas A Powell
Subject: Re: herbicide use

Here is a summary that partially answers the claims by Margulis; they are
most likely based on the Benbrook study mentioned below.

Nov. 12/99
Doug Powell

Benbrook (1999) claims that Roundup Ready (RR) soybean yield drag was
evident in numerous 1998 field trials as summarized by Oplinger et al.
(1999). Oplinger and co-workers collected yield data from 8,200 soybean
performance trials conducted at universities in eight of the northern
United States. The data indicated that average yields of RR soybean
varieties ranged from 14 per cent less to 13 per cent more than
conventional varieties. Averages of all tests indicated a 4 per cent
decrease in yield of RR soybeans compared to conventional varieties. Given
the magnitude of the study, the overall trend may seem significant.

However, the data would be more meaningful if Oplinger et al. Had included
statistical analyses indicating whether RR soybean yields were
significantly different from their conventional counterparts. In addition,
the soybean varieties evaluated were grown under varied environmental and
production conditions. Benbrook (1999) cites interactions of weather,
tillage methods, soil conditions, herbicides, insecticides, and
surfactants as affecting soybean yield. Weeds are unpredictable and
species that limit crop yields can change from year to year. Rose (1998)
writes that weed species, row spacing, and the timing and application of
herbicides can affect weed competition, and therefore yield, in soybeans.
These different production conditions necessarily affect soybean yields.
Furthermore, the data presented by Oplinger et al.
(1999) is for a single growing season, which may not have been
representative of the norm. Until multiple season data is collected and
analysed, it remains difficult to accurately determine the significance,
if any, of yield drag for RR soybeans..

There are numerous advantages to using RR soybeans. Glyphosate, the active
ingredient in Roundup, is known for its low toxicity and has been used for
nearly 30 years without any harm to beneficial insect
populations. Honeybees are not harmed by Roundup, as show in studies
mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health
Organization. The International Organization for Biological Control deemed
Roundup less harmful than various other herbicides. Additional studies
also indicate glyphosate does not harm earthworms, beetles and other
insects. Glyphosate also biodegrades easily, breaking down into naturally
occurring substances relatively quickly compared to other herbicides.
Contamination of groundwater and field run-off is unlikely as the
herbicide binds to soil particles.

Various media accounts contain allegations that more herbicide is required
to treat RR soybeans than that required for conventional crops.
Comparisons between herbicides should consider the amount of active
ingredient used per acre, not the total amount of herbicide per acre, as
well as toxicity and persistence in the environment. While newer, low-dose
materials or the use of STS soybeans (soybeans resistant to
sufonylurea) can reduce herbicide use to less than one-tenth of a pound of
active ingredient per acre, in contrast to 0.75 or 1.5 pounds per acre of
Roundup (Benbrook, 1999), these other herbicides, including sulfonylurea,
can persist in the environment with the potential for deleterious
consequences. Decisions to use herbicides should not be based solely on
quantity of herbicide used, but should also address potential
environmental effects and impacts on insect and animal populations.

Benbrook (1999) indicates that RR soybeans may out-perform conventional
soybeans. This may be explained by more effective weed control or less
crop injury from herbicides and weed management practices. Other
herbicides, such as sulfonylurea and imidazolinone, can stunt soybean
growth, cause plant damage, and decrease yields by impairing plants'
immune processes and lessening the availability of minerals such as

In Canada, the first RR soybeans grown were known to be lower-yielding
than conventional varieties. Nevertheless, the soybeans were registered
because the RR trait was seen as advantageous for various other agronomic
and environmental reasons. Backcrossing the RR trait with better yielding
varieties should be
addressed. Oplinger et al. (1999) predict "soybean growers will continue
to increase acres planted to RR varieties and will sacrifice maximum yield
for ease of weed control." Cost-benefit analyses may indicate that using
RR soybeans is still advantageous to farmers, regardless of the potential
for yield drag.

Benbrook, C. 1999. Evidence of the magnitude and consequences of the
Roundup Ready soybean yield drag from university-based varietal trials in
1998. Benbrook Consulting Services, July 13.
Oplinger, E. S., Martinka, M.J., and K. A. Schmitz. 1999.Performance of
Transgenic Soybeans in the Northern U.S. Accessible in Adobe Acrobat
format at http://www.biotech-info.net/herbicide-tolerance.html#soy.
Rose, F. 1998. One herbicide application in wet year doesn't eliminate
weeds in soybeans. Extension and Ag Information, University of
Missouri-Columbia, September 10.