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Glyphosate Drift to Rice a Problem for All of Us

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page, Louisiana News page, and our Mississippi News page.

Airplanes and ground applicators have been used to apply amendments to rice crops in Mississippi since the mid-1950s, and the interests and success of rice producers and aerial aviators have become intricately intertwined.

In the late 1990s, technology inserted into cotton, soybeans, and corn allowed over-the-top application of glyphosate onto those crops. The technology immediately revolutionized the production systems for those crops.

The U.S. rice industry never adapted the glyphosate-resistant technology for fear that its product - consumed with virtually no processing - would be forsaken by consumers worldwide. And so, non-transgenic rice is planted in a sea of genetically modified crops that are tolerant to glyphosate.

For years, this seemed to pose no real problem or threat. In the early to mid part of the last decade, however, reports of rice damaged by glyphosate drift began to surface with increasing frequency. Rice specialists noticed that rice that had no obvious damage through the growing season would yield and mill poorly and would exhibit the classic trait associated with late glyphosate drift - the kernel would be shaped like a parrot beak instead of its normally elongated, symmetrical shape.

In 2006, immediately after most crops were planted in the Delta, a wet and windy period set in. Airplanes set out to spray cotton, corn, and soybean fields plagued with weeds. Not many thought much of it at first.

By mid-May, however, reports of dead rice and rice burned off to the ground began to surface. Soon the reports were widespread. It was estimated that 30,000 to 50,000 acres of rice were damaged or destroyed that year by glyphosate.
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