In a battle between native plants and exotic plants, many American nativists hope to use glyphosate herbicides to eliminate alien species. However, this herbicide not only accidentally kills other species, it may also cause cancer.
| Expulsion of Tartars |
On a Friday night in January 2015, 1,000 guests listened to environmental historian Jared Farmer’s keynote speech on the impact of eucalyptus trees at the California Native Plant Society’s annual meeting in San Jose on a Friday night in January 2015. Impact on California ecology and history. Unfortunately, eucalyptus is not a native plant in California, but imported from Australia during the Victorian period. In the minds of most of the participants, eucalyptus trees were unmistakably threatening alien invaders. Its dry, flammable branches are unfriendly to birds, and it is a voracious and brutal predator of water that would otherwise belong to native vegetation.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted Eucalyptus’s ugly behavior, but also cited positive comments from others over the years. The move was reckless, and the reference to the eucalyptus as a “Native Californian” sparked criticism. After making this point, the mild-mannered speaker was interrupted by boos, curses and jeers until he mentioned the long-horned beetle, which was removed from the world in the 1990s. Imported illegally in Australia, specifically to kill eucalyptus. The audience applauded the natural enemy of eucalyptus.
It’s not just eucalyptus that these committed advocates of California’s native plants loathe. Many of them are influential in the local government, eager to return to the Bay Area’s original treeless prairie style when the first European immigrants settled in 1769. In order to realize their ideals, the Monterey cypress was repeatedly attacked by relevant departments in San Francisco. Cypress isn’t the only item on these nativist cleanup lists, with nearly 450,000 trees set to be felled in and around Oakland, Berkeley and surrounding areas in the next few years under the pretext of “reducing wildfire risk.”
Defining what is “native” and “invasive” in a changing natural world is controversial. For example, camels are native to North America, but camels in that region went extinct 8,000 years ago. Instead, the sacred sequoia tree was an “invader” that sneaked into the North American continent as early as 65 million years ago. The U.S. National Invasive Species Council defines an “invader” as “an alien species whose introduction does or has some potential to cause harm to the economy, the environment, or human health.” But the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Gould dismissed the idea, calling the definition “romantic nonsense”. In his book, he writes that native organisms are simply “those who happen to be the first to acquire resources and gain a foothold in an area,” and he derides these “first comers” as simply learning to live in harmony with their surroundings Therefore, the “latecomers” are regarded as invasion and exploitation.
Even so, the idea of fighting alien species encroachment is still prevalent in the United States, whether it is university biology department, wildlife official organization or various garden clubs. When I lived in Virginia, an enthusiastic lady of the local Native Plant Society told me that her dream of Virginia’s natural landscape should be as it was seen by the settlers in 1607. For this dream image, she sternly urged me to uproot the forsythia flowers (which originated in the Balkans) at home and replace them with beautiful native shrubs. When former President George W. Bush was on vacation in Texas, he always spent a lot of time clearing red willows from the ranch. Many states have agencies to regulate and eradicate invasive alien species. In 2014, the North Carolina Invasive Plants Council presented two rangers with the “Annual Excellence Award” for discovering a small patch of the invasive plant purslane during their work. The Vietnamese call purslane the “American weed” because there it grows on barren land where the U.S. military has sprayed Agent Orange.
Coincidentally, Monsanto, the supplier of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, also produced Roundup glyphosate, the most widely used organophosphate herbicide in the United States. Glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Monsanto’s signature herbicide, is the best weapon against invasive organisms. According to a 2014 study by the California Invasive Plant Council, more than 90 percent of local land managers use the compound to eradicate invasive species, especially eucalyptus. Relevant officials in Massachusetts found that glyphosate has a miraculous effect on eradicating wetland reeds; Pennsylvania vigorously promotes the use of glyphosate to kill purple pearls; Louisiana stipulates that it can be used for purslane, and reminds that it may need to be used multiple times in order to eradicate.
| Persecution delusion|
This anti-invasion mania is not just a local situation. As the federal government’s official position states: “The invasion of alien species poses an extremely serious threat to the US environment, affecting the entire territory of the United States and every country in the world.” In 2014, the federal government spent more than 2 billion US dollars to deal with the invasion of alien species, Nearly half of that money went to glyphosate and other toxic agents.
Nativists argue that the investment is insignificant compared with the potential economic damage. The Department of the Interior claims the economic cost of invasive species infestation is as high as $120 billion. That data, though, comes from Cornell University ecologist David Pimentel. His own aversion to alien species even extends to race, as can be seen from his public opposition to immigration.
Come to think of it, other instances of damage allegedly caused by alien species are equally debatable. For example, eucalyptus trees, which are considered flammable, can survive wildfires; they do not seize water from other plants, but absorb water through their leaves and channel it to their roots, keeping the surrounding soil moist; Of all wildlife, monarch butterflies love to roost in California’s eucalyptus trees during their winters.
The tamarisk does not consume as much water as the cottonwood native to the American Southwest. According to Arizona State University biohistorian Matthew Chou, the tamarisk’s notoriety can be traced back to malicious marketing by a mining company in the 1940s. The company’s production requires a lot of water resources, but the local river water is limited and has been used for agricultural irrigation and other purposes. Therefore, the company proved through research that tamarisk will consume a lot of water resources, and after eliminating this “intruder”, the remaining water will be enough for its production and operation.
The seemingly mundane reed sparked the most determined and dubious extermination campaign yet. Reeds have been accused of depriving other wetland plants and animals of their living space and resources. To this end, the Delaware state government repeatedly sprays thousands of gallons of glyphosate herbicides on a vast land of 27 square kilometers at the mouth of the Delaware River every year. In 2013, when the New York government planned to destroy the reed swamp in Pyrmont, local residents rebelled after discovering it. “We love the swamp. It is so beautiful, it protects us from hurricanes, and it is home to many wild animals.”
As noted above, the nativist ideal of exterminating the invaders is intertwined with the fantasy of restoring the original. Lush reedbeds covered much of the New Jersey prairies, no doubt irritating nativists eager to return to the pristine prairie landscape. Peter Tetich, a former senior researcher at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, believes that the reed spread is closely related to the construction of roads in New Jersey. The road blocked the river and formed a large area of wetland environment suitable for reed growth. Remove the road, and the grassland will naturally recover. But he also mentioned that the nitrogen and phosphorus leaking from more than 500 landfills in New Jersey is purified by reed wetlands. He said: “In any case, it is impossible for us to reconstruct lost natural landscapes because the conditions for their existence have disappeared. Due to human activities, the world we live in is very different, and it is impossible for us to turn back time.”
Mark Davis, a professor of biology at Macalester College, criticized the idea of anti-invasion of alien species more sharply, “This is ecological fundamentalism, a superstitious belief that the purity of the past has been defiled by outsiders.” In his view , alien species are not crowding out native species, but entering an area that has already been devastated or at least disturbed by humans. In other words, they are symptoms, not causes. For example, ailanthus trees are suitable for growing in saline-alkali soil. This kind of tree spreads inland from the east coast of the United States along the interstate highways. Their special spreading track is caused by the highway department’s winter salt removal.
| Biju Tongshi|
Monsanto is trying to take off the label of “Agent Orange” and become a brand new “life science company”. To this end, the company’s top executives have invested large sums of money in GMO projects. Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters is just a few miles from the Missouri Botanical Garden. Monsanto made full use of this advantageous geographical condition and cooperated in-depth with the former head of the botanical garden, botanist Peter Levin, to achieve a win-win situation. In 1996, Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro invited Raven to the Monsanto Center groundbreaking ceremony. The company not only donated land and $2 million for the center, but also invested $50 million in the construction of another transgenic research institute, the Danfoss Plant Science Center. Monsanto’s genetically modified project mainly plans to genetically modify crops to be immune to glyphosate.
When Monsanto tried to play creator in the 1990s, the Clinton administration became its solid backing. When France refused to introduce genetically modified corn, the US president, secretary of state, national security adviser and a host of senators spoke out for Monsanto. Monsanto workers even took stipends from the Clinton administration. Monsanto Senior Vice President Virginia Weldon served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which advises on public policy.
Raven’s group’s proposals on anti-invasion of alien species have also taken advantage of this wind to receive high attention. “The invasion of harmful weeds has caused large-scale damage to the natural environment and economy of the United States, which can only be compared with natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and wildfires.” Bruce Babbitt, then Secretary of the Interior, said in his report. In just one year, Clinton signed Executive Order No. 13112 to establish the National Invasive Species Commission, which aims to resist and control invasive alien species and minimize the adverse impacts caused by invasive species. One of the committee’s advisors is Monsanto’s product development manager, Niroy Jackson, a botanist who helped develop the glyphosate herbicide formulation.
Although Monsanto’s three words are “life sciences”, most of its profits depend on the production and sales of glyphosate herbicides. By the end of the 1990s, the annual growth rate of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide revenue was as high as 20%, as the company’s executives commented: “Roundup is Monsanto’s God.” The symbiotic relationship between Roundup and Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant genetically modified crops ensures Its sacred status cannot be shaken. The number of farmers planting genetically modified crops has also increased.
| Things in extremes must turn back|
External intervention is not a good thing for the biodiversity that Raven has always advocated. For example, the larvae of monarch butterflies eat milkweed as their main food, but glyphosate is so effective at killing this plant that with the use of herbicides, the main food of monarch butterfly larvae disappears. In 1995, in the early days of Roundup, there were nearly 1 billion monarch butterflies in the skies over U.S. fields; by 2014, that number had plummeted to 35 million. To some, it is on the brink of extinction.
Raven remains optimistic about the status of the monarch butterfly, citing Monsanto’s plans to promote milkweed in non-farm areas. But such weed oases are rare, and if they do exist, they could become home to other invasive species. In this way, people have to spray glyphosate again to kill new enemies first, so as to make room for the poor living space of milkweed.
Since 2004, many farmers have begun spraying glyphosate herbicides on crops that have not been genetically modified to induce early harvests. The glyphosate remaining on the bran will be further processed and reach people’s dining tables. For years, Monsanto and its allies have vehemently denied allegations that glyphosate is harmful to humans. In 2001, then Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers argued in an interview that “salt and baby shampoo may be more toxic than glyphosate.” The truth of the danger is right in front of you. Not only can it cause rashes and other human illnesses, it can even poison poultry.
The cruel reality cannot shake the mountain of Monsanto. The 1991 study by the US Environmental Protection Agency overturned the conclusion that “glyphosate may cause cancer”. In 2013, after much lobbying by Monsanto, France withdrew a report that glyphosate compounds caused cancer in rats. In the face of stormy doubts, Monsanto has always adhered to the unwavering position that “glyphosate is harmless to human health”.
The “speed bump” finally appeared in front of this high-speed capital cart. In March 2015, 17 scientists met in Lyon, France, with the support of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, to assess the carcinogenicity of several chemicals, including glyphosate. The research team was led by internationally renowned epidemiologist Aaron Blair, who spent 30 years at the National Cancer Institute and published more than 450 papers.
Blair’s team reviewed three sets of data from animal tests, epidemiological studies of people repeatedly exposed to glyphosate, and analyzes of glyphosate’s carcinogenic processes. The results showed that the rate of cancer in experimental animals was too high. Similar results were obtained by groups conducting epidemiological studies of vulnerable populations in the United States, Canada, and Sweden. They found that glyphosate use or close exposure to glyphosate was associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, “and they tended to co-exist.”
Not surprisingly, Monsanto was outraged by the results. Biotech food industry PR sites are full of mockery of the study. Hugh Grant, chairman and chief executive, dismissed Monsanto as a sympathetic journalist who accused it of profiteering: “It’s heartbreaking to hear that junk science and false rumors are misleading consumers.”
As usual, Monsanto demanded a retraction Report. But it seems unlikely that Blair would choose to backtrack, given his position when he spoke to me. “Historically, the same thing happened with tobacco, asbestos, and arsenic.” In support of Blair’s research, the French government immediately banned Roundups are sold in floral stores.
Beyond that, a new catastrophe was brewing: the gradual emergence of glyphosate resistance in targeted plants. The only way farmers can deal with resistant weeds is to spray more. Herbicides that used to be sprayed once a season now require three. All of this made me think of the small sycamores in corn and soybean fields, which are also targeted by glyphosate. In recent years, farmers have discovered a super small grass that can survive years of glyphosate. Not only did it survive spraying with four times the normal concentration of herbicide, it even emerged from its near-death experience to grow to twice its original height, with stalks thick enough to snag harvesters, one farmer said. The blade of the machine.
That said, a non-alien invader is being produced in large numbers in the United States.