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Articles from 2006 In September

Corn+Soybean Digest

2005 F.I.R.S.T. Harvest Corn Directory

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WTO Rules in Favor of U.S. in EU Biotech Case

The World Trade Organization has ruled in favor of the U.S., Canada, and Argentia in their case against EU bans on agricultural biotech products, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab announced Friday.

The U.S. brought a WTO challenge in May 2003 over the EU moratorium on approving agricultural biotechnology crops and member-state bans of previously approved products.

"After eight years of legal wrangling and stalling by Europe, we are a step closer to clearing barriers faced by U.S. agricultural producers and expanding global use of promising advances in food production," Ambassador Schwab says.  "I urge the EU to fully comply with its WTO obligations, and consider all outstanding biotech product applications, and evaluate their scientific merits in accordance with the EU's own laws."

Although the EU approved a handful of biotech applications following the initiation of the case in 2003, it has yet to lift the moratorium in its entirety.

In upholding U.S. claims against the EU's across-the-board moratorium on product approvals and six EU Member States' product bans, the WTO issued the longest report in its history.

Congress Adjourns Without Passing WRDA

As Congress heads into the election recess, both houses released a joint statement Thursday saying they will return to the Water Resources and Development Act in November. Lawmakers from both parties voice a commitment to pass the bill this year, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, says that conferee staffs will meet during the recess to address the unresolved issues.

"Despite significant progress made and the hard work by all involved, time simply ran out to pass a bill by the end of September," says Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "I look forward to returning in November to work with my colleagues to pass WRDA as soon as possible. A WRDA bill is long overdue and I have every intention of completing the bill this year."

Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr., R-Tenn., isn't interested in rushing the bill without smoothing out the unresolved issues: "It is better to do a conference bill well than to do it quickly. This bill will authorize projects that are investments in America. These are navigation projects that keep our ports and waterways open to commercial traffic, flood damage reduction projects that protect our homes and businesses, and environmental restoration projects that enhance our quality of life."

The bill would repair locks and dams in key waterways, including constructing seven 1,200-foot locks on the Mississippi River and modernizing locks on the Illinois and MississippiRivers in order to eliminate bottlenecks.

EPA extends registration for Bollgard II cotton technology

Monsanto announced today that the Environmental Protection Agency has granted an unconditional registration for its Bollgard II or second-generation, insect-protected cotton technology.

The St. Louis-based company said cotton producers planting Bollgard II will be required to continue planting a non-sprayed 5-percent refuge or a sprayed 20-percent refuge of cotton that does not contain the Bollgard II genes – at least for now.

“Extension of this registration is good news for U.S. cotton growers and assures that they will continue to have access to this valuable technology,” said Paul Callaghan, cotton trait manager for Monsanto, in a press release issued by Monsanto shortly after EPA announced its decision.

The registrations for both the Bollgard and Bollgard II technologies were scheduled to expire this fall. EPA earlier extended the Bollgard registration through the 2009-growing season.

Bollgard II is the second-generation of insect-protected cotton developed by Monsanto. The technology contains two different insect-control genes, compared with the single insect-control gene in its predecessor Bollgard, and provides growers with benefits such as a broader spectrum of insect control and improved efficacy against damaging worm pests.

Bollgard II cotton produces both the Cry2Ab2 and Cry1Ac proteins. Each protein provides control of cotton bollworm and tobacco budworm, which gives Bollgard II dual efficacy for both pests. The two-gene system also reduces the chance that insect resistance will develop.

Monsanto said growers will be required to continue key stewardship practices, including a comprehensive insect resistance management program for Bollgard II cotton.

“The decision on the natural refuge system has been divorced from this decision,” said a Monsanto specialist. “The scientific advisory panel that had been convened to consider our request has asked for additional information.

“So we think it will be later rather than sooner before we receive a decision on allowing the natural refuge to serve as a source for susceptible moths in an insect resistance management plan.”

Cotton farmers first planted Bollgard cotton in 1996, and Bollgard II cotton varieties have been on the market since 2003. Monsanto licenses both traits to cottonseed companies to use in leading cotton varieties. For the 2007 season, there will be an expanded number of cottonseed varieties with Bollgard II and Roundup Ready Flex cotton traits that have performed very well in university trials across the Cotton Belt, the company said.

For more information on Monsanto and biotechnology, see:


Groups Ask for Inquiry of Smithfield-Standard Acquisition

In a Thursday letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, a coalition of fifteen agriculture and consumer groups call upon the Department of Justice to investigate Smithfield Foods' planned acquisition of Premium Standard Farms.

The coalition contends the proposed acquisition, if approved, will escalate the excessive consolidation of livestock markets and could lead to the potential manipulation of consumer retail prices for pork and beef products, and that the deal would lessen competition in the livestock industry.

The fifteen organizations, including National Farmers Union, livestock producers, rural residents and consumers, sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez asking for a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the sale.

The group also asks the DoJ to carefully consider the relationships of stakeholders' interests in each company. The ContiGroup, the letter points out, controls nearly 40% interest in Premium Standard Farms, and last year a ContiGroup subsidiary merged with a Smithfield Foods subsidiary to form a cattle feeding alliance. This raises the possibility that the Smithfield-Standard acquisition would cause concentration in both the cattle and hog industries.

"This acquisition has the potential to lead to collusion among a relatively small number of producers and packers to manipulate the consumer price of pork and beef," the letter warns. "Ensuring that livestock markets operate in a free, fair and transparent manner is critical to our nation's agriculture economy.  Without such open and competitive markets, independent producers cannot survive and consumers lose."

Manage outcrossing to stop resistant red rice development

Clearfield rice fields were among the cleanest in regions infested with red rice in 2006. Many will agree.

Looking more closely, though, there were Clearfield rice fields with a few remaining red rice plants either randomly dispersed within the field or growing in small patches along the borders. These would be the infamous escapes.

Those along the edges may have not been sprayed or had poor coverage because of interfering objects or applicators trying to avoid drift onto an adjacent susceptible crop.

These escaped red rice plants can outcross with Clearfield rice if they flower at the same time. Therefore, growers who plant Clearfield rice should monitor escaped red rice and manage possible outcrossed plants. Why? Because Clearfield technology is the best tool in an integrated program for controlling red rice in rice.

Assuming there are escapes, how much outcrossing can we detect? How big of a problem can it be? It depends. In some cases, zero — not a problem.

We are conducting an outcrossing monitoring program in collaboration with Arkansas county Extension agents and BASF. In this work, about 40 percent of fields were infested with strawhull red rice, 33 percent with blackhull red rice, and about 60 percent of fields with brownhull red rice did not have any outcrossing. The main reason is no overlap in flowering.

If the escaped red rice flowers earlier or later than Clearfield rice, there is nothing to worry about. To know for sure, scout the field closely around flowering time. Otherwise, you just have to assume that outcrossing occurred and proceed with managing the potential outcrosses.

Where outcrossing occurred, strawhull red rice (the most common type) had less outcrossing (about 100 per 100,000 plants) than blackhull red rice (about 450 per 100,000 plants).

Brownhull, a rarer type of red rice, does not outcross often (only four of seven fields). However, when it does, the outcrossing rate is much higher (about 750 per 100,000 plants).

We also want to caution growers that there is a wide range of outcrossing rates within a type of red rice. For instance, among the strawhull-infested fields, the outcrossing rate ranged from 15 per 100,000 plants to 190 per 100,000 plants. Among blackhull-infested fields, the range was from 70 per 100,000 plants to 1,440 per 100,000 plants.

As we have mentioned during field days, not all strawhull red rices nor all blackhull red rices are the same. Besides the wide disparity in their flowering dates, they also vary widely in plant height and other characteristics.

In the year following Clearfield rice, the escaped red rice population may be composed of Newpath-susceptible plants from the soil seed bank and possibly resistant red rice plants, which are products of outcrossing that occurred in the prior season.

With Clearfield 161, the first generation outcrosses will look similar in one field if the field was infested with only one type of red rice. For example, crosses with strawhull red rice will generally produce upright red rice plants that are taller than both the Clearfield and red rice parents, and the plants will generally be late-maturing. Most of them will not be flowering at the time of rice harvest.

The good thing is these first generation plants are easy to spot when the rice is mature. We say “generally” because some strawhull and blackhull red rices will produce early-maturing crosses.

Blackhull red rices, which are mostly awned, will also produce plants with pink awns when hybridized with rice. David Gealy's work at the USDA rice research center in Stuttgart, Ark., also shows this. If the first generation outcrosses are able to produce seed, the second generation (F2) outcrosses will be detected the third time Clearfield rice is planted in the same field.

F2 plants will segregate into all sorts of plant types — short, intermediate, tall; extremely early, normal maturity, late. The short, early-maturing types will escape detection and replenish the seed bank. These Newpath-resistant types will persist.

Those with normal maturity will flower with the existing rice crop and produce new outcrosses. The late ones would behave similarly to the first generation crosses.

Is the development of resistant red rice populations from outcrossing manageable? Yes. But it has to be a priority for all of us. We recommend the following:

  • Prevent survivors from seeding. Watch for red rice that attempts to put out another panicle after harvest, then spot-treat with 2 to 3 quarts of Roundup. In case some plants survive this application (big plants), mow down the survivors to prevent them from reseeding.

  • Alter tillage practice. Avoid tillage in the fall so as not to bury resistant red rice seed into the subsoil.

  • Modify flooding practice. Keep the field flooded in the winter to encourage predation by ducks and deterioration of seed on the soil surface.

  • Use burndown treatment and slightly delay planting. Conduct shallow tillage in the spring and delay planting somewhat to allow for early red rice germination, then treat with glyphosate; or, do not till in the spring, wait for early red rice emergence, burndown with glyphosate, and then plant no-till.

  • Prevent survivors from seeding. Monitor hot spots in the field during the growing season and rogue or spot-spray escaped red rice in these areas. Use GPS coordinates if possible.

Crop rotation is the best partner for Clearfield rice. However, there is room for improvement in our rotation recommendations.

For example, a field was planted with Clearfield rice in 2004, Roundup Ready soybeans in 2005, and conventional rice in 2006. Moderate red rice infestations, in patches, were observed in this field in 2006.

Another field was planted with Clearfield rice in 2004 followed by Roundup Ready soybeans in 2005 and 2006. There was still red rice germinating in 2006.

The seed bank can be reduced drastically in one season, but it cannot be completely depleted quickly.

Charity should begin with a lot less subsidized junk mail

If I mailed 10 letters a day for the next year, I could not possibly use up all the personalized address labels that I have received this year from one charity or another.

Even were I inclined to use the labels, which I don't, more often than not, my name is misspelled, or I'm Ms. or Mrs., or the street address is wrong, or there are other inaccuracies.

I just run 'em all through the shredder unopened (in this era of identity theft, one can't just toss things in the round file any more).

Heaven only knows how many hundreds of these unwanted labels my shredder has chomped up — many of them printed in color on foil, often with photos of flowers, or cute little graphics of animals or Halloween pumpkins or Christmas wreaths.

And that's only the beginning: there are the imprinted pens, calendars, imprinted notepads, note cards, rulers, tape measures, key chains, refrigerator magnets, ticky-tacky pins and plastic jewelry of one kind or another, stickers, bookmarks, occasionally a letter with a penny or a nickel showing through the address window, and endless other stuff that I don't want.

Can't shred all those things, so I'm forced to open the envelope, remove my name/address info and shred it. Everything else goes into the garbage.

It's not that I'm anti-charity; I've made donations to any number that I felt good causes.

Unfortunately, that only unleashes a torrent of additional mail, trying to wheedle further donations, and more labels and junk that I have to shred or throw away, further clogging the landfills.

What's really galling about all this is (1) that these charities spend a good chunk of the money I've given them buying more useless junk to mail to me, and (2) that they clog up the postal system with tons of mail that you and I subsidize through their heavily discounted mailing rates.

Worse, when I make a donation to Charity ABC, they then turn around and sell my name to Charity XYZ and others, so I am bombarded with even more mail, imploring me to contribute to the Aid for Orphaned Armadillos Fund or the Society for the Preservation of Edsels.

More than 10 years ago, a close friend died, and the family requested memorials to a specific local charity. I sent a donation, and for the next five years not a week passed that I didn't get one or more appeal letters from the organization, though I wrote them several times and asked that they remove my name from their list. Finally, they did, but I'll wager that in the interim they had spent all of my donation, or more, sending mailings I didn't want.

I've asked other charities to remove my name from their list or to only send an annual solicitation. They don't. So, I have resolved that henceforth I will not abet their mass mailing addiction, and will contribute only to those charities that don't waste the money I give them by inundating me with unwanted junk.

Arkansas vigilant on avian influenza threat

While the hysteria surrounding avian influenza has calmed a bit, regulatory agencies and the poultry industry aren't taking a break from testing. With migratory birds winging their way across North America, over the next several months some 1,500 wild birds will be tested for the H5N1 virus in Arkansas.

“We're doing this in conjunction with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission,” says Phil Wyrick, head of the Arkansas Poultry and Livestock Commission, which oversees the $29 billion industry in the largest poultry-producing state in the nation. “Game and Fish will gather the birds and we'll test them.”

Wyrick says he wouldn't be surprised if birds with avian flu show up somewhere in the South over the next few months. That shouldn't sound any alarms, however — over 140 different strains of avian flu are found in migratory birds.

“Most of those strains aren't a concern (to humans). We're mostly concerned with the H5N1. We will find additional avian flu out there. But I doubt it will be the dangerous-to-humans kind.

“I'd compare this situation to someone asking, ‘Hey, you got the pox?’ Well, is he referring to chicken pox or small pox? There's a huge difference there — kind of like a common cold and pneumonia. That's what we're talking about between high pathogenic strains and low pathogenic strains of avian flu.

“Thus far, a pair of swans up in Michigan was found to be infected. After they ran a lab test (on the genetics), the flu strain was found to be low pathogenic.

“The same is true for some ducks in the (eastern United States). Again, we're really worried about high pathogenic strains.”

This year, all birds from commercial flocks slaughtered in Arkansas have been tested for high-path avian flu. The industry “insisted on that and testing has ramped up over the last few months. Every test has shown up negative. We don't have the flu.”

Wyrick says conventional wisdom is that if high-path H5N1 arrives in Arkansas, it will come through someone who has traveled overseas.

“It won't come from our commercial flock and, so far, migratory birds haven't (vectored) it. The real fear is someone overseas already infected with a mutated H5N1 traveling here. From him, the disease could spread around the United States.”

Even if a positive high-path find was made in migratory birds, there are still significant barriers for the disease in North America.

“Our poultry industry is enclosed and bio-security is very strict. It's almost impossible for a migratory bird to make contact with any commercial operation.”

What about the upcoming duck season?

“Health workers are very concerned that hunters follow some good, common sense. Clean your game and then wash your hands thoroughly. Hunters often ask, ‘what exposure do I have to these birds?’ I'd think it's a good idea to clean up properly after handling wild game of any sort.”

If the disease does show up, Wyrick's agency will take the lead on bio-security.

To prepare, and in conjunction with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Services, Wyrick's agency recently received a grant from the Homeland Security Department for $150,000.

“Beginning in November, we'll be conducting drills with Emergency Services and local (disaster-response) teams across the state.

“There will be other live drills in the spring. We conducted two of those drills last year and four drills the year before. We've been at this awhile.”

Another grant, this one from the USDA, has allowed Wyrick to advertise for another poultry expert to expand the testing program even further.

“We're really concentrating on building a solid testing foundation — equipment and personnel. The combined grants are around $500,000. About $200,000 is a renewable annual grant. With the extra $300,000, we purchased equipment in our diagnostic laboratory. Now, that lab's capabilities are second to none and nationally accredited.”

A mobile command emergency vehicle set up to handle such situations has also been purchased. The vehicle will allow “us to roll to any worrisome incident and have (the statewide emergency communication system) online. It will also carry equipment needed to decontaminate a farm, quarantine it and, if necessary, depopulate it. We're being pro-active on this. USDA has pointed Arkansas out as one of the most progressive states in being prepared for this disease.”

Wyrick, while insisting he isn't a “waterboy” for Arkansas' massive poultry industry, says the industry has “proven to be responsible. They recognize it's incredibly important to continue to have the confidence of the consumer. Domestic poultry sales remain very strong in the United States.”

Even so, things can turn quickly. Wyrick points to Italy as an example.

“Last February, Italy had a positive H5N1 find in some migratory birds. Their domestic poultry consumption dropped by about 60 percent. Even though that was unwarranted, it happened.”