How to Rig a Monsanto GM trial
by Linn Cohen-Cole 
OpEdNews, 15 November 2008

*Take a look at Australia's latest

From a report by Julie Newman.

Media has devoted attention to Andrew Weidermann's GM trials in Australia, but has failed to notice that the trials had been manipulated in a series of ways to make the GM-canola look as though it outperformed normal canola. 

Julie Newman, reporting on these trials, asks "Why has there been so much promotion of GM trials but little attention to detail?" 

What details were overlooked?

"The non-GM varieties could not perform to their full potential because standard weed control was avoided."

She begins by noting that GM-canola offers no real "advantage" at all.    Its only difference is that it was made resistant to Roundup Ready Glyphosate, Monsanto's pesticide.  That is, the GM-canola is nothing special in terms of anything it has to offer about the canola.    It is simply altered in tie it to Monsanto's own product.

"The agronomic difference between GM and non-GM herbicide tolerant canola is [only] the type of chemical that it is resistant to," Ms. Newman explains.  She then suggests that a fair comparison between GM-canola and normal canola would be performance trials that compared weed control using different chemicals and at optimum times. 

She said that the trials on Andrew Weidermann's property which were made much of by the media, completely failed to do that.  (In fact, they did the opposite.)

The preferential treatment of the GM-canola

Only the GM-canola was treated as recommended and at the optimum times.  She notes that "the recommendations for the Roundup Ready canola were followed well and spraying was done when weeds were manageable.    Even so, despite ideal treatment, hogweed and vetch survived and there was a second germination of weeds (including hogweed)."   

The step-child treatment of the normal canola

When it came to treating the normal canola, she explains that the standard practice for it would be to apply "a knockdown herbicide of glyphosate prior to sowing but this was not applied.  In a blatent disregard for standard practise of triazine tolerant varieties, no pre-emergent triazine was applied which is essential to the success of TT varieties." 

She goes on to add that the next application for the normal canola came two months after planting though ryegrass size already "exceeded label recommendation for control. ... This weed control was well outside label recommendations and would have had a serious yield drag due to lack of weed control, particularly in early growth stages."

Oh, Monsanto, this is a low-down dirty trick, which would have been obvious to any farmer, yet one so easy to play on city reporters, don't you find?

Ms. Newman, not so easily taken in, notes that "It is not surprising that there was ryegrass survivors in the Clearfield varieties as again the herbicide recommendations were not followed." 

Not only was the recommended timing not followed but an "excuse of "bad weather" was given for [the] delay to which Ms. Newman countered that "no rain was recorded at the optimum spraying time." 

Reporters were not been present during the months of growing and spraying so were unable to observe that the ideal timing for treatment was followed for the GM-canola or that the recommendations for appropriate timing were not followed for the normal canola.  Instead, they came to see the plants themselves and were subject to other tricks being played which they seem not to have been knowledgeable enough to discern.

1.  "A tall variety (of the GM-canola) was planted to provide the impressive visual difference in height for those that were not aware that Australian plant breeders have been deliberately breeding for shorter varieties."

2.  "For an additional visual extra, triazine tolerant varieties [the normal canola] were sown far thicker resulting in a spindly look ..."  That is, normal plants were sown twice as close together which affected their robustness whereas the Roundup Ready varieties (the GM-canola) looked more robust because they were not crowded into splindliness.

Ms. Newman is quite direct about the false outcome.

 "As treatment of non-GM seriously deviated from the norm, it is valid to say that trials have been manipulated to give a false benefit to GM varieties by compromising non-GM comparisons. It is a sad day when trials need to be rigged in a desperate attempt to avoid the truth that GM fails to live up to the hype that surrounds it."

***These trials deliberately ignored the standard weed control used for non-GM varieties. No knockdown herbicide was used and no triazine was applied when sowing. TT varieties only received a half dose of Atrazine well after it should have been applied when the weeds were twice the size as the weeds in RR crops when they received their treatment. The delay in chemical application in Clearfield varieties resulted in weeds being 4 times the size of weeds when RR varieties were treated. Both Triazine Tolerant and Clearfield varieties were treated past label recommendations when weeds were too large for chemicals to be effective.***

The statement from Andrew Leiderman, on whose property Monsanto's GM-canola trial was carried out: "Easy to do stewardship program as Monsanto give you the answer if you get it wrong." 

For more detailed information on this study, please contact Julie Newman.
Phone 08 98711562