The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, May 03, 1991, Image 2

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

The Battalion
'"■MUI mwwr—■
Friday, May 3,1991
Herbicide-tolerant plants
are environmental hazard
One of the early promises of biotech
nology was to reverse agriculture's in
creasing dependency on chemicals and
make sustainable agriculture possible.
Biotechnology now promises to in
crease agriculture's dependence on
toxic and carcinogenic pesticides, and
further the decline of the family farm
associated with the increasing industri
alization of modern agriculture.
Despite agriculture's overdepen
dence on pesticides and herbicides in
particular, many biotechnology, agri
chemical, and seed companies, as well
as the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) and state agricultural institu
tions, are using genetic engineering (bi
otechnology) to develop crops and
trees which are herbicide-tolerant (HT).
Chemical companies now own most
of the major seed companies in Amer
ica. By controlling seeds and chemicals,
two important chemical agriculture in
puts, these companies could reap large
financial rewards while furthering en
vironmental and social disorder.
Annual atrazine sales could increase
$120 million if soybeans are made toler
ant to atrazine herbicides. The atrazine-
resistant soybeans could allow three
times as much atrazine to be applied
with no damage to the soybean crop.
Canola is one of at least 15 different
crops, trees, flowers and grasses being
engineered for glyphosate tolerance.
The genetic engineering of glyphosate-
tolerant canola alone could mean
"hundreds of millions of dollars in ad
ditional sales" for Monsanto, according
to one industry analyst.
The potential pot of gold is so big
that American Cyanimid gave away for
free a gene identified to give crops a
tolerance to Cyanimid's new family of
imidazoline herbicides. Pioneer Hi-
Bred, the world's largest corn-breeding
company, has agreed to insert the gene
into its hybrids.
There are clouds on .the horizon of
the otherwise clear skies of this cor
porate bonanza. HT varieties of canola
have lower yields and reduced fertility.
Another problem is the price of expen
sive patented herbicides. The cost of a
herbicide/herbicide-tolerant seed pack
age may prove prohibitive for many
farmers. Also, HT genes can be sex
ually transferred to weeds through
cross-pollination, giving weeds the
same HT properties as the crops.
There are a number of serious envi
ronmental and social problems asso
ciated with the development and wide
spread planting of HT crops.
Although herbicides are not immedi
ately toxic to humans or animals, there
is little research on their long-term tox
icity. Chronic toxicity symptoms often
do not appear until years after expo
sure. Studies done by the Environmen
tal Protection Agency and others link
various weed-killers with cancer, birth
defects, central nervous system disor
ders, and skin diseases in humans.
Atrazine and metolachlor are the
highest and fifth highest used herbi
cides in the United States. Both have
been detected in groundwater and are
classified by the EPA as possible hu-
Michael Worsham
man carcinogens. The herbicide 2,4-D
is the third most used in U.S. agricul
ture, and has been linked to cancer. All
three of these herbicides are subjects of
HT research.
The incidence and extent of pesticide
contamination of food is unknown.
Even worse, the USDA acknowledges
that HT crops might carry more herbi
cide residues than current crops do.
Scientists generally cannot control
where the foreign genetic material is in
serted. HT genes could disrupt plant
metabolism and gene function, cre
ating genetically engineered plants
which are possibly less nutritious or
even unsafe to eat. The Food and Drug
Administration has not yet announced
plans to test genetically engineered
foods for safety and nutritional value.
Twenty-one herbicides are among
the 74 pesticides which the EPA has de
tected in the groundwater of 38 states.
Many of these herbicides are the sub
ject of HT research.
One study estimated that less than 1
percent of the pesticides (including
herbicides) applied actually reach tar
get pests. Since widespread HT crop
farming will increase herbicide applica
tion, the severity of ground and surface
water contamination will also increase.
Farmworkers will receive even
higher levels of pesticides. HT corn
could increase yields 2 to 4 percent and
add to current surpluses. This would
lower corn prices and reduce farmers'
income. The decrease in farmer's in
come, coupled with the takeover ol
smaller farms by big agribusinesses,
could lead to the social and economic
decline of rural communities.
U.S. taxpayers unknowingly spent
over $10 million the last few years on
HT plant research. The U.S. Forest
Service spent $2.million of this devel
oping HT forest trees, indicating their
continued intent to manage our na
tional forest as timber farms.
The worst problem of HT plant re
search is the effect it will have on the
development of alternative, or sustai
nable agriculture. The USDA has spent
over $13 million on low-input sustaina
ble agriculture the last few years, about
the same as on ITT research.
The National Research Council
found that alternative farming systems
give farmers significant sustained eco
nomic and environmental benefits, and
that wider adoption of proven systems
would result in even greater economic
benefits to farmers, and environmental
gains for the nation.
Biotechnology has been used in more
constructive ways. Genetic engineering
has successfully produced a strain of
cotton which makes its own pesticide
which is poisonous to bollworms.
However, HT crop research is an inde
fensible and completely irrational step
backwards in the wrong direction to
wards increased toxic chemical depen
dency. Fortunately, Texas A&M Uni
versity is not invovled in HT research.
It must be pointed out to these mod
ern-day Dr. Frankensteins that water,
air, soil, birds, animals, plants and peo
ple are not resistant to herbicides.
Herbicide-tolerant public relations
personnel will have little trouble cover
ing up that problem, but DuPont and
its counterparts will undoubtedly not
stop until they have created herbicide-
tolerant newspaper columnists.
Michael Worsham is a graduate stu
dent in environmental engineering.
The Battalion
(USPS 045 360)
Member of
Texas Press Association
Southwest Journalism Conference
The Battalion Editorial Board
Timm Doolen,
Todd Stone, Managing Editor
Krista Umscheid,
Opinion Page Editor
Sean Frerking, City Editor
Jennifer Jeffus,
Gallic Wilcher,
News Editors
Jayme Blaschke, Sports Editor
Richard James, Art Director
Rob 'Newberry,
Lifestyles Editor
Editorial Policy
The Battalion is a non-profit, self-sup
porting newspaper operated as a community
service to Texas A&M and Bryan-College
Opinions expressed in The Battalion are
those of the editorial board or the author,
and do not necessarily represent the opin
ions of Texas A&M administrators, faculty
or the Board of Regents.
The Battalion is published daily, except
Saturday, Sunday, holidays, exam periods,
and when school is not in session during fall
and spring semesters; publication is Tuesday
through Friday during the summer session.
Mail subscriptions are $20 per semester,
$40 per school year and $50 per full year:
845-2611. Advertising rates furnished on re
quest: 845-2696.
Our address: The Battalion, 216 Reed Mc
Donald, Texas A&M University, College Sta
tion, TX 77843-1111.
Second class postage paid at College Sta
tion, TX 77843.
POSTMASTER: Send address changes to
The Battalion, 216 Reed McDonald, Texas
A&M University, College Station TX 77843-
The Battalion is interested in hearing from its readers and welcomes ail letters to the editor.
Please include name, classification, address and phone number on all letters. The editor reserves
the right to edit letters for style and length. Because of limited space, shorter letters have a better
chance of appearing. There is, however, no guarantee letters will appear. Letters may be brought
to 216 Reed McDonald or sent to Campus Mail Stop 1111.
Student shares racism experience
In reference to Reggie Allen's article on racism on April
23rd, I would like to say that the same thing happened to
me. In fact, events such as this have occurred at least two
times in the last year. Both times, it was approximately the
same time at night.
The policemen also shined lights in our faces when
coming to question us. Each time they made my friends
and me show not only our student I.D.'s, but our driver's
licenses as well. They even went so far as to call our license
numbers in to the College Station Police Department.
When we asked what we had done they also replied we
"'fit the description' of some criminal mischief."
Further, I have not only heard of, but been an example
of Caucasian women quickening their pace when I happen
to follow behind them at night.
By the way, my friends and I are WHITE. I am not a rac
ist and agree that racism exists. However, when an unfor
tunate incident occurs, don't be so quick to label it "ra
cism". In doing this, you only add unneccessary fuel to a
fire that already has enough real problems.
Kevin Parma '91
Leave crop selection to farmers
No one would disagree with Mr. Yung that starvation is
a terrible problem that needs to be addressed immediately.
However, reduced consumption of meat is not the answer.
True, 56 percent of U.S. agriculture land is used for cattle.
The reason for this is that this land is not suitable for row
crops. Many areas are not capable of growing potatoes-
only grass, and unless Mr. Yung knows how to feed babies
grass, this still remains the most efficient way to use this
Additionally, many grains are not nutritional enough to
supply the needed protein to these starving people, and
other animal sources of protein are needed.
In conclusion, I would like to say that even if all this
surplus grain was present in the U.S., the political climate
in most of these countries is such that getting the food to
the people may be impossible. So why don't we leave crop
selection to the farmers. After all, it's their livelyhood and
they know what works best.
Darrell Palm '93
Taiwanese want independence
In the recent article of the editorial page in April 27,
there are some opinions which upset us very much and
could mislead many Aggies.
"Taiwan has been (and still is) a part of China since the
beginning of mankind." said Dr. Edmond Chang.
This is an emotional argument! Taiwan has been gov
erned by the Dutch, the Spanish, the mainland Chinese,
the Japanese and the Nationalists. It was not always part of
China, as was found in the written history and definitely
not part of People's Republic of China now.
The Taiwanese now demand the reconstruction of the
Congress which was elected, for the most part, 40 years
ago during the civil war of China. The Taiwanese are
looking forward to the bloodless revolution and a new,
democratic and independent country.
Taiwanese Student Association
Aggieland spirit will live forever
I have spent four wonderful years at A&M and plan to
attend grad school in the fall. During these four years, I
have lost count of the number of letters printed in the Bat
talion regarding the spirit of the student body. While some
have been positive, most of the letters question the true
meaning of being an Aggie.
Many times I have wanted to write and tell everyone
that A&M is stronger than ever in that respect, but I have
not had an experience to support my claim. Well, now 1
can prove it.
As ashamed as I am to admit it, I lost my Aggie ring
April 24. I misplaced it in the library in the second floor
bathroom. I returned ten minutes later, only to discover it
gone. Anyone who has experienced this knows the empti
ness associated with losing the most important gift this
university has given us. I was lucky to recover my ring at
the lost and found counter in the library, after several min-
iutes of sweating profusely.
This letter is to try and convey my deepest expression
of thanks to the individual who found and returned my
ring. I know there are other people in this world who
would have done the same thing, but only at A&M is it ex
Even though "Howdy"s are not as common as they
used to be, and traditions are replaced to accommodate
new generations and ideas, I believe that anyone would
find it difficult to encounter another group of people who
continue to support and care for each other long after their
student life ends. Thanks to this one person, and others
like him/her, I know that the deep-seeded spirit of Aggie
land will live forever. Gig 'em.
Patrick Dierschke '91
Overkill of gay, lesbian articles
Do the editors at The Battalion understand the term "o-
verkill?" Don't they think there has been a little bit of over
kill used in the plethora of gay and lesbian articles printed
since Gay and Lesbian Awareness Week?
There was a guy who tried to prove my point a couple
of days ago, but the idiot also decided to print his warped
opinions on the issues of gay rights. He did have a point
about overkill, though.
Maybe there is a larger gay and lesbian population here
than was once thought, and I do think the campus is now
more aware of the gay community due to The Battalion's
efforts, but this barrage of articles is unadorned over publi
The editors can hide behind "the public's need to
know" if they want to, but it's sensationalism, plain and
It reminds me of a "Baptist" preacher standing in front
of Sullivan Ross screaming at women things that need not
be reprinted here. Maybe some of the people here at A&M
aren't perfect (I know I'm not) or have done things that he
considered "wrong," but I doubt his extravagance was
If I read the Bible correctly, Jesus didn't heal a blind
man by poking out his eyes, nor the crippled man by kick
ing his legs.
Without using the Bible, the principle still applies. Cor
recting a misperception should be done objectively and
calmly. It is said in Japanese business that the first side to
yell is the side that lost. Well, The Battalion won't open
anyone's mind by spray painting "HOMOSEXUALITY" on
a baseball bat and smashing it over their readers' heads.
Kevin Lindstrom '93
Cinco (
Cinco d<
but the foe
iday has c
States, sai<
changed C
meaning o
Texas A
were pr
and the
A $4,i
were pn
the awar
until anr
The IS
□ Dr.
fessor of
and instr
□ Dr.