Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Follow-Up Concerning My Recent Post About Superweeds

Pigweed in a field by uacescomm.

My recent post, What's next for Industrial Agriculture? More toxic Chemicals? has been run on both The Energy Bulletin (here) and at Seeking Alpha (here).

I'd like to share the rather remarkable reaction in the way of comments that this article generated over at Seeking Alpha yesterday. First of all, it was my most read article on that site to date, with even more views than "Jim Rogers, the World is not short of Grain", which tells me it had at least several thousand views, yet generated only six comments, which I find rather surprising.

The comment which was most valuable and interesting, and I wish there'd been more of from the actual farmer is as follows:
from Duane Allman:
Give my Farm Manager a call and ask him about his feelings toward "super weeds" and Monsanto's pricing. I promise you he will give you an earful. My farms are located in WA. State and are primarily used to grow corn using MON seeds and chemical and develope Wetland Ponds. The Northern part of the U.S. is suppose to be seeing very little evidence of these "super weeds" since the supposed serious out breaks are down south and limited to cotton fields. Corn in the N. part of the U.S. is suppose to be the last area to see the "killer weeds". YEAH RIGHT!!!! All but one of my fields has out-of-control KOCHIA that has a devasting impact on yields and spreads like wildfire. My Manager tells me that by next year we will have to hand spray every Wetland Pond on the property since the KOCHIA will spread from the corn fields to the Wetland ponds. This in turn will choke out all of the natural vegation we have worked on promoting for the past 10 years in out wetlands.

In regards to MON price increases I will have to get his records but I know from talking to him that our input costs from MON have gone through the roof. All the farmers in our area are changing chemicals and seed and are very happy that we have a lot of competition coming. MON also has problems with the AntiTrust Division of the U.S. DOJ. I wouldn't touch MON stock with a 10 foot pole at these prices. Perhaps, it will become a serious value stock consideration after another 30% haircut. Perhaps we have some hands on active farmers on this site that can provide MON prices and price increases vs farm commodity prices.

Quit talking your book or pumping up the MON Sales & Marketing Departments talking points.

Good article.

But, this is what never ceases to amaze me, the damage control PR department of some of the largest most powerful corporatism in America.

The very first comment on the article was this:
Your information here is gleaned from "pop" sources, much of that being pseudoscience and fear-based sensationalist fare. If you're going to do that, you should also read and present what you can understand of scientific articles and also the opposing view (holes and all) which comes from Monsanto.

The company's website will tell you in clear terms (which ring true, to me) that "superweeds" (sensationalist, cinematic image) are in fact resistant to glyphosate (Roundup), that this was predicted all along, that the severity of the problem for a particular farming operation is proportional to misuse of the system and other poor farming practices (similar to, say, overfishing), that they have always had and continue to emphasize education for farmers, that their current solutions to the problems are effective, that their R&D in partnership with the likes of "competitors" Dow and BASF will continue to alleviate world hunger, lower production costs with higher yields, continue to lower the quantities used of much more toxic pesticidal materials.

In fact it only makes sense to attribute their success to all of that. It's not as if the farmers are ignorant hired hand louts. It is their very sophistication that leads them to buy from Monsanto's best of breed seeds and systems. Nor is it that Monsanto is without enemies. They seem to have more antagonists than any other company in the world, so your written material here is pure hack. The truth of all this has to reside in the valid scientific rationales, not Luddite fear of genetic modifications and a silly sense of superweeds pushing at your door. I'd at least want to see your education background on this subject before taking you seriously. What I see so far is just pop, or maybe just pandering to a social peer group anti-big ag agenda.

To which I responded:
Please be specific about which of my sentences were inaccurate and site references pointing me to the truth. When I read your comment, it was almost as if it was written for a different article entirely, not mine. I had no agenda when I wrote mine, but you appear to have one. SA changed my title from "Superweeds remove efficiencies from the Industrialized Agriculture System". Do you disagree?

To which I never received a response.

And then, the guy's buddy comes in later in the day, with this:
Q98, thank you for your insightful and well reasoned presentation. I fancy I would have written almost the same things if I had written first. My only build is that Monsanto, who originated RoundUp, has a large research organization and has shown no signs of sitting on their laurels. It may be that they have not demonstrated the marketing acumen expected from a leader, but I believe that is being corrected, and there is no doubt that while Dupont is not to be counted out wrt chemistry, Monsanto has the resources to make another herbicide.

A separate point can also be made that the fear-mongering about RoundUp resistant weeds presupposes that their arising is a result of RoundUp, which is not at all shown by the data. Their survival in the competitive world of weeds is more likely a result that their natural enemies were more susceptible. In addition, it's not obvious that resistance to RoundUp is somehow cumulative, that is, that the weeds that survive RoundUp are also resistant to more common herbicides.

My intent, in writing the article was, as always, to try to assess how Ag is changing, long term implications of new developments, and the bigger picture, as a realist. If I offended a certain corporation as a side-effect of what I wrote, so be it.