Artificial Photosynthesis Produces Food without Sunshine
TSTA Weekly Update, 07/07/2022
Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association
The TSTA Board of Directors will hold a meeting beginning July 18, at Horseshoe Bay Resort. Among agenda items is updating the TSTA strategic plan, review of staff performance, Review of board performance, membership outreach & engagement, and winter growouts. If you have items you feel need to be considered by the board please contact a board member or reply to this issue of the Weekly Update and TSTA staff will pass them along.
What to do when science conflicts with political agendas - an Editorial
Editorial by TSTA staff
On June 17, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, headquartered in San Francisco, California, ordered the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reassess the health risks for glyphosate. The court ordered the EPA to reassess the cancer risks of glyphosate as well as impacts on endangered species.
In 2020 the EPA issued a "finding" that glyphosate did not pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment. Evidently that was not the result environmental activists and the ninth circuit were looking for. Plaintiffs argued the EPA did not follow established protocol for the evaluation of cancer risks and the three judge panel of the ninth circuit agreed while ruling the herbicide active ingredient can stay on the market while the reassessment is underway. The court's deadline for the reassessment results is October 2022 which constitutes a much quicker than usual review period.
California state courts have not generally allowed scientific findings and opinion to be entered into evidence in court cases involving alleged cancers caused by exposure to glyphosate. Agricultural groups have expressed disappointment that the United States Supreme Court refused to hear Monsanto vs. Hardeman which would have resulted in a decision about aspects of pesticide law enforcement from state labeling versus federal labeling to the admissibility of scientific evidence into court proceedings. The Biden justice department advised the supreme court not to take up the case. It is not known how much influence the recommendation of the justice department had on the supreme court's decision not to hear "Hardeman."
FYI - in 1985 the Environmental Protection Agency classified glyphosate as a Group C Carcinogen, meaning it has “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.” In 1991 EPA changed carcinogenic classification to Group E, meaning "evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans."
In a major victory for plaintiff Hardeman, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court verdict that found Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing his NHL and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act does not preempt state law claims. Thus the same appeals court that upheld the settlement for Hardeman, determined federal law does not preempt lawsuits filed in state courts, and affirmed the opinion that glyphosate is responsible for Hardeman's cancer, is the same court that is ordering a "re-review" of glyphosate by the EPA. Little surprises us coming from the ninth court of appeals; this is a blatant request for "scientific" substantiation of a politically-motivated decision - after the fact.
The Biden administration has, as is their right, placed its chosen bureaucrats in "leadership" positions at the EPA. Anyone care to wager how the court-ordered reassessment of glyphosate will turn out?
Editor's Note: Bayer is a valued member of the Texas Seed Trade Association
In an effort to update and maintain our membership records we request you take a few moments and fill out the very brief info request at the following link.
The link is secure and the information will be used internally by the Texas Seed Trade Association and never shared without your permission. This request is on behalf of your association's board of directors and officers and we greatly appreciate your cooperation. Thank you!
7/7/22 - If you have not updated your information please take a moment and do so now. We appreciate it! We continue to update this database and need your input!
If you are a certified wheat seed producer and have an interest in participating in re-certification procedures this season please contact Jerrett Stork, Certified Seed Coordinator, Texas Department of Agriculture, at the Giddings Seed Lab as soon as possible. Jarrett can be reached at 979-542-3691. Plan on contacting your local TDA inspector concurrently as it may expedite the process.
US EPA determines neonicotinoids likely to harm most endangered species
The EPA has determined that neonicotinoids (neonics) are not just harmful to bees but are likely to be harmful to fully three quarters of all identified, and listed, endangered species. This is the conclusion of the EPA issued June 16, 2022.
The three most commonly used neonics: clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiammethoxam, have been important and useful tools for agriculture and have been used as effective seed treatments in many applications.
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and the American Farm Bureau have both stated their disappointment in the "finding" alleging the EPA grossly overestimated the amount of neonics used annually. According to ASA president and Arkansas farmer, Brad Doyle, growers have repeatedly pointed the EPA in the direction of real world data to improve their endangered species assessments but the agency has chosen to disregard the better processes. For their part environmental groups are also dismayed that only three quarters of endangered species made the cut citing that aquatic mollusks and giant garter snakes were left out.
A plethora of environmental groups are urging the EPA to cancel all registrations and tolerances for all neonics with lawsuits sure to come. The EPA is now consulting with the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine what endangered species are in jeopardy from neonics. The agency plans to publish mitigation measures next year updating those released in 2020, by the previous administration, which obviously did not go far enough in the view of the current administration.
The USDA's corn and soybean condition ratings moved lower over the past week.
That followed another week of generally hot, mostly dry weather in some key U.S. growing areas canceling out much better conditions in other parts of the region.
As of Sunday, 64% of U.S. corn is in good to excellent shape, 3% less than last week, with 7% of the crop silking, compared to the five-year average of 11%.
63% of U.S. soybeans are called good to excellent, 2% under a week ago, with 96% emerged, matching the usual pace, 16% blooming, compared to 22% on average, and 3% setting pods, in-line with the normal rate.
31% of winter wheat is rated good to excellent, up 1%, with 54% harvested, compared to 48% on average.
66% of spring wheat is reported as good to excellent, a jump of 7% thanks to recent rain in the northern Plains, while 20% of the crop has headed, compared to 57% normally in early July.
36% of cotton is in good to excellent condition, 1% lower, with 44% of the crop squaring, matching the five-year average, and 13% at the boll setting stage, compared to 12% on average.
76% of the rice crop is good to excellent, 3% above the prior week, and 15% of the crop has headed, equaling the five-year average.
31% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are rated good to excellent, unchanged on the week.
Agri-Pulse reports-Russian military advances are threatening fields in southern and eastern Ukraine that are some of the most fertile in the country and are located in the country's primary growing regions for winter wheat, according to market analysts and researchers.
Ukrainian farmers last year were heading out into the fields to harvest their winter wheat on more than 7 million hectares, or 17 million acres. Now, farmers will be lucky to harvest 4.8 million hectares, or about 12 million acres, according to a new forecast by UkrAgroConsult, a firm based in Kyiv. Farmers are harvesting winter wheat in Odesa, a southwest province that has been attacked by Russian missiles, but fields on Ukraine's eastern provinces are either under occupation or siege. "
After the northern part of Ukraine was liberated in early April, all of the hostilities became concentrated in southern and eastern Ukraine," says Maryna Marynych, a research analyst for UkrAgroConsult. Displaying photos of fields pockmarked with blackened blast craters, she added: "As of the end of June, nearly 20% of Ukraine is under occupation, and fields that are close to the frontline look like this."
While 20% of Ukraine may be occupied by Russian forces, more than half the country's winter wheat fields are considered either occupied or at high risk because of their proximity to the fighting. Large swaths of Ukraine's most productive wheat-growing area are in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces - or oblasts - but that's where the heaviest fighting is, and much of the region is under Russian control.
Radio Oklahoma Farm Network reports: Thousands of Dutch farmers have taken to the streets to protect their government's plan to shut down as much as one third of the meat production in their country- all in the name of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Politico - now you have the police firing shots on tractors- "Dutch police fired shots at tractor-riding farmers who were protesting against plans to cut nitrogen emissions on Tuesday evening in northern Netherlands.
Police said they were responding to a "threatening situation" when the farmers, who were attempting to push past a blockade to get onto a highway in the province of Friesland, started to drive their tractors into officers and their vehicles.
"Dutch farmers have this week been protesting government plans that could require farmers to use less fertilizer and reduce their livestock numbers, which could force some farms to shut.
"The Dutch government wants to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia, which are produced by livestock, by 2030. Cuts could reach 70 percent in some areas, under the plans."
Meanwhile- an Op-Ed on the website Zerohedge is more blunt abbout the war between farmers and their government- Kit Knightly writes "While the scheme is allegedly about limiting nitrogen and ammonia emissions from urine and manure it's hard not to see this in the broader context of the ongoing created food crisis.
"The Netherlands produces a massive food surplus and is one of the largest exporters of meat in the world and THE largest in Europe. Reducing its output by a third could have huge implications for the global food supply, especially in Western Europe.
"Perhaps more troubling is how this could act as a precedent.
This isn't the first "pay farmers not to farm" scheme launched in the last year - both the UK and US have put such schemes in place - but a government paying to reduce it's own meat production? That is a first.
"That it is (allegedly) being done to "protect the environment" makes it a big warning sign for the future. Denmark, Belgium and Germany are already considering similar policies.
"The Western world seems to be enthusiastically embracing quasi-suicidal policies."
Gina McCarthy would be proud.
NEW PIG VACCINE BEING DEVELOPED TO BE FED VIA CORN
Feed & Grain magazine reports:
On June 9 at World Pork Expo 2022 in Des Moines, IA, Dr. Rick Sibbel, with Mazen Animal Health, announced his company is getting closer to completing development of a novel vaccine that would be produced in corn and administered through animal feed.
"My company is doing something that has never been done," said Sibbel during the Bacon & Innovation panel discussion at WPX.
"We've talked about it for 20 years, but it's never been done," he said. "We figured out through plant biology and immunology how to put protective antigens in the germ cell of corn, grow the corn, grind the corn and feed it to the pigs."
Transformative vaccine technology
Vaccination of livestock prevents disease and decreases losses. Injectable vaccination, however, can be costly and difficult to administer, said Mazen.
The company said this is why it is now developing a product that offers transformative vaccine technology where the animals don't even know they are being vaccinated.
By administering the vaccine with feed, challenges associated with finding labor to administer injectable vaccines and other issues such as broken needles in the animal or accidental vaccination of the worker are eliminated. Oral vaccines allow for cost-effective disease prevention with improved animal welfare.
Mazen's oral vaccines are produced via recombinant protein production in corn. The technology platform leverages many years of breakthrough R&D led by John Howard, Mazen co-founder and an expert in recombinant protein production in plants.
First vaccine designed for PEDv
Sibbel noted during the panel discussion that Mazen's s lead oral vaccine in development is for the prevention of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv).
The vaccines developed using this technology promise to be substantially more cost-effective and convenient than traditional injectable vaccines for livestock and companion animals.
"This technology can help achieve better animal health through disease prevention - rather than treatment - and improve economics, stewardship and sustainability," said Jenny Filbey, CEO of Mazen.
Artificial Photosynthesis Produces Food without Sunshine
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech
Plants are growing in complete darkness in an acetate medium that replaces biological photosynthesis. Photo Source: Marcus Harland-Dunaway/UCR
Scientists from the University of California, Riverside, and the University of Delaware have found a way to bypass biological photosynthesis and create food without sunlight by using artificial photosynthesis.
The research team used a two-step electrocatalytic process to convert carbon dioxide, electricity, and water into acetate, the form of the main component of vinegar. Food-producing organisms then consumed acetate in the dark to grow. Using solar panels to generate the electricity to power the electrocatalysis, this hybrid organic-inorganic system could increase the conversion efficiency of sunlight into food by up to 18 times more efficient for some foods.
Their experiments showed that food-producing organisms can be grown in the dark on the acetate-rich electrolyzer output, including green algae, yeast, and fungal mycelium that produce mushrooms. Producing algae with this technology is approximately four-fold more energy efficient than growing it photosynthetically. Yeast production is about 18-fold more energy efficient than how it is typically cultivated using sugar extracted from corn.
Scientists are now looking at the potential of using this technology to grow crop plants. Cowpea, tomato, tobacco, rice, canola, and green pea were all able to use carbon from acetate when grown in the dark.
Does shopping at upscale grocery stores make you a better consumer? Hardly. In fact, contrary to what you may already believe, organic food is not less efficient and thus more expensive. It is also worse for the environment.
A study by the University of Melbourne in Australia shows that organic farming yields 43 percent to 72 percent less than conventional methods — and that achieving the same output requires 130 percent more farmland. For those skeptical about the results of just one study, you can find more of them here, here, here or here. The last-mentioned study underlines the point that “if all U.S. wheat production were grown organically, an additional (30.6 million acres) would be needed to match 2014 production levels.”
Organic food needs more resources than conventional farming. The effects on biodiversity are severe: insects and pollinators can access fewer natural reserves with organic agriculture. On top of that, under a 100 percent adoption scenario of organic farming, carbon-dioxide emissions would increase by up to a whopping 70 percent, as researchers in the United Kingdom have shown.
So why do some people in the United States continue to buy organic food at sometimes double the price of conventional food? One on hand, it’s performative. Shopping at sizeable organic food shops is popular and presumably the sort of thing you’re supposed to do once you have a comfortable salary in a large city. On the other hand, some consumers are misled about the alleged benefits of organic farming. Organic food is thought to be healthier (it isn’t) and to not use pesticides (it does).
Organic farming has become a talking point, more than just a beneficial placebo effect for upper-class city-dwellers. It is also political. “Democrats will invest in research and development to support climate-resilient, sustainable, low-carbon and organic agricultural methods,” the 2020 Democratic Party platform says.
Yet the Democrats are doing more than just subsidization — environmentalists are undermining the catalog of pesticides available to farmers by arguing that they are dangerous. In fact, painting pesticides that have been safely used in American agriculture since the 1960s as “bee-killing” or “toxic” has been a frequent trope of activists who bemoan everything from “factory farming” to the availability of meat.
Sen. Cory Booker is happy to play a part in a New York Times opinion video in which he says “we are past the national emergency,” tying climate change with the American food system. Booker, whose home state of New Jersey produces a whopping … 0.35 percent of all the food in the United States, probably misrepresents the reality of American farming. In fact, agricultural intensification has led to peak agricultural land being reached, meaning that we make more food with less land overall, which allows our ecosystem to regrow over time. That means more forests and flowers for the aerial shots of political campaign videos.
The representation of the American food system as toxic and evil can only go so far before it becomes either comical or sad. Neither of them is a good look.
Editor's Note: Professionally and personally we support organic production as the result of an economic decision but less so if the decision is ideological or political. Organic produce typically sells for more than conventionally-produced food products and rightly so as costs of organic production are generally higher.
Facts. however, are stubborn things, and organic production cannot feed a growing world population in any practical sense. Understanding the temptation to market organic products as "better, healthier, more environmentally friendly" these claims are, nonetheless, inaccurate at best. I confess that I did not know a plank in the Democrat Party platform blatantly supports organic agriculture though previous posts here concerning USDA disproportionate support for organic agriculture should have made that.
Mr. Wirz, who happens to live and work in Luxembourg, has likely identified just how far some are willing to go when he intimates that crop protection products are under assault to promote "sustainable" agriculture. It fits and makes sense as part of a plan to drive organic agriculture. Unfortunately such policies and processes seem to have less regard for rising food prices and forecasts of less food availability.
Field trial for GM sorghum in Australia now approved
University of Queensland news release
Australia's Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) has issued license DIR 189 to The University of Queensland (UQ) for the limited and controlled release (field trial) of sorghum genetically modified (GM) for asexual seed formation.
The field trial will take place at one site with a maximum area of one hectare per season at the University of Queensland's Gatton Campus in the Lockyer Valley LGA in Queensland. The GM sorghum may be grown between September 2022 and June 2025. This field trial is to assess the performance of the GM sorghum under field conditions. The GM sorghum grown in this field trial would not be used in human food or animal feed.
The Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan (RARMP) and the license were finalized from input received during the consultation with the public, State and Territory governments, Australian Government agencies, the Minister for the Environment, the Gene Technology Technical Advisory Committee, and local councils.
The finalized RARMP, a summary of the RARMP, a set of Questions and Answers on this decision, and a copy of the license, are available online from the DIR 189 page on the OGTR website.
MORE ON THE FIVE CHANGES EPA IS PROPOSING ON THE USE OF ATRAZINE
By Margy Eckelkamp, The Scoop magazine
On June 30, EPA released proposed revisions to the Agency's September 2020 atrazine interim decision.
The agency is proposing the following five changes to the atrazine herbicide labels in order to decrease atrazine runoff from treated fields:
Prohibit application when soils are saturated or above field capacity (i.e., the soil's ability to retain water); Prohibit application during rain or when a storm event, likely to produce runoff from the treated area, is forecasted to occur within 48 hours following application;
Prohibit aerial applications of all formulations; and
Restrict annual application rates to 2 pounds of active ingredient or less per acre per year or less for applications to sorghum, field corn, and sweet corn.
An additional "picklist" to labels requiring growers to select a combination of application rate reductions and/or runoff control measures when using atrazine in certain watersheds
The picklist method is said to help growers select runoff control practices that are the least burdensome.
The watersheds where growers must adhere to the picklist requirements are those watersheds with atrazine concentrations that exceed the CE-LOC of 3.4 μg/L-the EPA says this is approximately 18% of total watersheds nationwide. The number of mitigation practices required increases with the higher predicted atrazine concentration and depends on crop, geographic region and field topography. It does not apply to fields in watersheds with atrazine concentrations below 3.4 μg/L.
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- In an unprecedented move, EPA today announced it is reopening the finalized reregistration of atrazine, putting this key crop protection tool and today's carbon-smart farming practices at risk. This is according to the Triazine Network, a coalition of agriculture groups that have been involved in regulatory issues related to triazine herbicides since 1995.
At issue is the aquatic ecosystem concentration equivalent level of concern (CE-LOC). In a published decision that concluded the registration review of atrazine in 2020, EPA set the atrazine CE-LOC at 15 parts per billion (ppb). Environmental activist groups retaliated with a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This opened the door for EPA to shift tactics and alter its decision. Today, EPA proposed an ultra-low CE-LOC of 3.4 parts per billion, which would have devastating impacts on farmers.
"To say growers are frustrated is an understatement. The science hasn't changed since 2020, when EPA set the level of concern at 15 parts per billion. EPA is playing politics with this decision and should not adopt this ultra-low level of concern," said Greg Krissek, Triazine Network co-chair and Kansas Corn Growers Association CEO. "We are urging farmers to oppose EPA's regulatory tricks and submit comments to EPA during the 60-day comment period this summer."
EPA floated the 3.4 ppb number in a draft proposal in 2016 and received over 30,000 comments opposing the ultra-low level. In 2019, the agency stated in a regulatory update it would use the 15 ppb CE-LOC and solidified that number in the published 2020 Interim Registration Decision. In today's news release, EPA claimed it had always intended to use the ultra-low 3.4 ppb level instead of the 15 ppb level published in the 2020 decision.
"EPA is saying that while it published the decision for the reasonable 15 ppb level, they didn't mean it," Gary Marshall, Triazine Network co-chair and former Missouri Corn Growers Association CEO said. "Now they are saying we should ignore what was published in the Federal Register, claiming it's always been 3.4 ppb, a level based on flawed studies thrown out by a previous Scientific Advisory Panel."
Farmers rely on atrazine's long-lasting weed control, and it is especially important as an aid to help farmers successfully use sustainable farming practices like conservation tillage and no-till. Placing severe limits on atrazine will have broad implications considering that atrazine is a key component in over 90 herbicide mixtures farmers rely upon. Atrazine has been on the market for over 60 years. No herbicide has been studied more or has a longer safety record.
"EPA's proposal would render atrazine unusable for many farmers and force them to abandon carbon-smart no-till practices in key areas of the Midwest," Krissek said. "While EPA is proposing mitigation measures for farmers to use in areas that would exceed the CE-LOC, our farmers are already concerned many of those methods won't be viable on their farm. For example, one suggested method is to incorporate atrazine into the soil, which would end years, if not decades, of no-till practices on those fields."
In today's announcement and in the docket, EPA stated it "intends to seek external peer review of the risks to the aquatic plant community that underlies this proposed risk management strategy."
Before any part of this proposal is implemented, EPA must stand by its promises to convene a formal FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel to specifically explore the scientific basis for the proposed CE-LOC revision and ensure high-quality research supports the proposal.
"EPA personnel told us the agency would convene a formal SAP to provide guidance on this matter. However, the news release and docket documents refer only to an 'external peer review.' That is not the same thing," Krissek said. "We urge EPA to publicly commit to convening a formal FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel to advise the agency on this matter. This SAP incorporating the latest peer-reviewed studies is key to ensuring EPA's proposed CE-LOC is supported by valid scientific evidence."
The Triazine Network is encouraging farmers to submit comments to EPA during the upcoming 60-day comment period.
After considering comments on the proposed revisions to the atrazine ID, EPA will determine if any changes are warranted to the proposed revisions and then release its decision on this re-evaluation. The Agency also intends to seek external peer review of the risks to the aquatic plant community that underlies this proposed risk management strategy. This is in line with the Agency's commitment to science and scientific integrity, and will incorporate the feedback it receives into its final revisions to the ID.
More information on the registration review process is available here
Editor's Note: It may seem we are conspiring against the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in this issue of the Weekly Update. Just so happens the timing is rather a perfect storm as the court has been busy lately. Busy challenging the way you make your living and the way we feed the world.