4 Responses

  1. Doug Gurian-Sherman
    Doug Gurian-Sherman at |

    Nice summary of several of the important problems caused by Monsanto and Bayer, although expecting them to take actions that will reduce their collective bottom lines does not seem realistic. Monsanto, as you note, has engaged in many harmful activities beyond simply developing its products. But so has Bayer, defending past all scientific reason its sales of neonicotinoids. So I will not hold my breath waiting for them to act on your suggestions. It will take public action to move past the industrial ag that Monsanto and Bayer support and thrive on, not reliance on the companies. But as a rhetorical device at least, it is good to have your list.

    However, several important actions regarding neonics should be added. One of the most important is to stop pretreating crop seed with those insecticides. Corn in particular can be very hard for farmers to buy in untreated form, contributing to massive overuse. And research has clearly shown that the very large majority of those seed treatments are not needed to protect those crops. See my recent article for more on this: https://civileats.com/2018/03/28/new-science-shows-bee-killing-pesticides-are-unnecessary-on-most-farms/

  2. Hope Shand
    Hope Shand at |

    Excellent post! Anti-trust regulators have failed again to rein in oligopoly power (despite boasting about required divestments). Thanks for a great start on the the long list of potential concrete actions that the New Bayer must pledge to adopt.

  3. Chuck Benbrook
    Chuck Benbrook at |

    Doug and Hope, apologies for not noticing you had both shared these comments via Hygeia. Thanks for weighing in.
    Doug, do you feel a case can be made for a ban on all neonic corn+soybean seed treatments, or do you feel they are some circumstances when targeted use might justify the hit on pollinators? If so, what circumstances?
    Hope, you and I have discussed many times the reasons and ways BASF will emerge from the industry’s merger mania with the most improved product line, lowest debt, and numbers Wall Street will love. Why has so little attention been focused on how much bigger and more powerful BASF is becoming?

  4. Doug Gurian-Sherman
    Doug Gurian-Sherman at |

    Chuck, the short answer to your question is that there are viable alternatives to seed treatments. In particular, the process of pre-treating months in advance, and rarely in response to scouting or any other actual assessment of pests, is completely contrary to IPM practices that almost all academic entomologists support (even those that generally support industrial ag).

    A more detailed response would require looking at particular pest insects. I did that in long report published a year ago, relying on extensive analysis of the research literature. The report has been favorably received by entomologists who work on neonic problems and alternatives. The report discusses the prevalence of the target pests and practices that avoid them. For anyone who wants those details, the report can be found at: https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/files/alternatives-to-neonics_v9_23186.pdf

    Of course, any method or growing crops and controlling pests can occasionally fail. The answer to this is not, to my mind, the overuse pesticides in anticipation that this might occasionally happen, but rather social and policy mechanisms to compensate for those unusual occasions. For example, insurance is preferable to pesticide use. It was estimated that a farmer supported insurance program in Europe instead of neonic seed treatments would cost farmers only about 10% of what they currently pay for seed treatments. That’s because the use of that insurance would rare, because these secondary pests are actually uncommon.


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