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Milestone Herbicide Creates Killer Compost

7/24/2009 8:34:58 AM

Tags: compost, herbicides

 

Clopyralid Pea Plant Damage

This pea plant shows the cupped leaves that indicate the soil contains damaging levels of a potent herbicide.

Last fall, our report on manure, hay and compost contaminated with Milestone herbicide (aka aminopyralid), made by Dow AgroSciences) told of 2008’s tragic summer in the United Kingdom, where thousands of gardeners lost their tomatoes, beans and other sensitive crops to manure and hay laced with this potent, highly persistent herbicide. This year the problem has hit home, with U.S. gardeners, organic farmers and commercial growers reporting damaged or lost tomato crops from Milestone contamination. (Aminopyralid is also sold under the brand name of Forefront.)

Why now? “We had the perfect storm to set up the situation,” says Dr. Jeanine Davis, associate professor of horticulture at North Carolina State University and author of several recent extension service advisories about Milestone’s persistent toxicity. The drought caused animal owners to buy hay trucked in from other areas, and at the same time many people created new vegetable gardens and bought contaminated compost, or hay to use as mulch.”

Davis is now receiving notices daily from growers and extension agents across the country who are seeing vegetables damaged by manure, hay or compost contaminated with Milestone. Tomatoes are highly sensitive; symptoms including curled, cupped leaves and wilting new growth are often misdiagnosed as a virus or disease problem.

Organic growers who have lost their crops suffer a double punch because they lose certification on the contaminated land. Recovery can take a long time. In a former North Carolina hay field treated with Milestone (one of several aminopyralid products) in June 2006, residue levels were high enough to damage tomatoes in 2009 — three years later.

All of this leaves Dow Chemical holding a bag of trouble, but maybe it won’t be so bad since the company reportedly has bought web rights to www.banaminopyralid.com. Is that smart damage control, or what? And business looks good judging from the number of U.S. highway departments, foresters, utility companies, and other big land managers that are buying the stuff by the ton. You tell me: When a deer grazes on treated vegetation in the power cut behind my house and relieves herself as she passes through my garden, who’s responsible for the fact that some of my soil is now useless for growing  beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes and many other crops for four years — or more. Do we really want to allow companies to make their profits by selling chemicals that are this potent?

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Milestone/aminopyralid has been pulled from the market pending further study. Damage reports continue to mount as the extent of the problem becomes known.

This entire problem is a repeat of damage that surfaced several years ago in the United States from another persistent Dow herbicide, clopyralid (sold as Reclaim, Stinger, Hornet, Transline, Confront, Lontrel, Curtail and Millenium Ultra). Dow was marketing clopyralid for broadleaf weed control on residential lawns, which meant it was contaminating grass clippings used to make municipal composts. Researchers eventually traced mysterious damage in gardens across the United States to the herbicide residues in composts. 

Why is this happening all over again?! These poisons are so powerful that they can persist for years, and they can damage sensitive crops at levels as low as 10 parts per billion, according to an Ohio State University factsheet. In some cases the lab tests needed to detect them at those levels had not even been developed.

It is absurd that the EPA is allowing these chemicals on the market. The herbicide labels warn about these dangers, but there is simply no way that any farmer selling contaminated hay (or giving away manure) is going to label it, so that consumers will know that it is toxic. It’s time for us to demand that the EPA take immediate action to protect us from these poisons. The Rachel Carson Council has taken the lead, writing to the EPA last fall to urge them to protect our gardens from Milestone herbicide toxicity. To join them, call or e-mail Kathryn Montague (703-305-1243; montague.kathryn@epa.gov).

In addition to complaining to the EPA, we urge you to report problems to your local and state extension offices (and to local news media so they can warn gardeners), and to post comments below to help us monitor this problem. Lab testing to confirm contamination is expensive, but there is a simple test you can run at home to help determine if your growing medium is or is not safe for growing crops.



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Post a comment below.

 

D Newton
7/13/2012 10:59:55 AM
To protect your garden,  you should always treat it with activated charcoal (carbon) to detoxify it.  It's inexpensive, easy to use, and will work equally well in soil, manure, mulch, etc. Howard Garrett, the "Dirt Doctor" also recommends activated charcoal on his national organic gardening show, and it is effective on pesticides and other toxins as well. I have seen it sold on Amazon listed as "soil detox".

Dakota Becker
12/8/2011 10:05:20 PM
Just an idea, but when we frame gardens as gardens, it's a lot easier for people to look at these pressing issues as pertaining to a minority of hobbyists.

cilla
3/30/2011 1:55:08 PM
I have an idea to get the public aware of this herbicide aminopyralid. Call your local news channels, and radio stations, and newspapers and demand they have articles about this, and warn the public on the news, and get groups of friends , family to hold signs and pass out flyers on street corners close to businesses who sell this. Send out emails, we need to get more active on this NOW ! Just do it !

cilla
3/30/2011 1:52:17 PM
I have an idea to get the public aware of this herbicide aminopyralid. Call your local news channels, and radio stations, and newspapers and demand they have articles about this, and warn the public on the news, and get groups of friends , family to hold signs and pass out flyers on street corners close to businesses who sell this. Send out emails, we need to get more active on this NOW ! Just do it !

Bill_76
2/8/2010 7:11:36 PM
OMG you people are so clueless..... The productivity gains that made the United States the world's breadbasket will be completely undone by your efforts to reverse all the agricultural progress of the past century. Anyway, this was a very useful article and helped me find a cheaper alternative to Stinger. Stinger is labeled for cropland use only but as I am trying to control a 50+ year old infestation of Canada thistle in 20 acres of non-cropland pasture, I am going to switch to Transline and save at least 50%. Thank you Mother Earth News for saving me several hundred dollars per year on my herbicide bill!

Barbara Pleasant_3
1/15/2010 9:19:26 AM
Ellen, Using this herbicide to kill the thistles will render the soil useless for growing many garden crops. Don’t do it. Instead, commit to digging out the thistle in a small area for your spring garden. After the weather warms and the remaining thistles begins to grow, mow them regularly and start using a vinegar-based herbicide to knock back sprouts that appear where you’ve already dug. In midsummer, closely mow the next area you want to bring into cultivation, and cover it with a sheet of black or dark green plastic for a month. Most of the thistles below will be dead. All summer, look for thistles that look yellow, stressed, and sick. Spread the diseases from the sick plants to healthy ones by blending sick plant parts with water, straining it, and mixing in some liquid soap before spraying the “pathogen tea” it on healthy plants. Using all these methods – plus improving your soil with compost and other forms of organic matter – will gradually bring the problem under control.

Ellen Little_2
1/14/2010 9:16:40 PM
SO question -- We just bought a REO house in suburbia with a beautiful flat 1/3 acre backyard which is completely covered in Blessed Milkthistle. This invasive weed will grow to 6ft wide and 6 ft tall -- the only thing I have come across so far in my research to eradicate it is, clopyralid (sold as Reclaim, Stinger, Hornet, Transline, Confront, Lontrel, Curtail and Millenium Ultra). ANy ideas how to do it more "earth friendly"! I'm open to any and all suggestions as I want to be able to plant a garden this spring. Thanks for your help! Ellen

erap_1
12/19/2009 4:11:15 PM
No, we don't have wives or children because men without wives or children are all bad, as you so astutely pointed out. People with wives and kids... the sole reason for needing more cheap food (breeders)...anyway, people with wives and kids can do no harm. We purposely put poisons in there so you would have to buy food from our LargeCorp group of people with no families. Remember kiddos... breeding for the sake of your own 'rights' is perfectly fine until you talk smack about us intelligent types... then we poison your gardens. Now, get off MY internet and go back to living in your cave.

Janine_2
9/11/2009 7:03:23 PM
I guess there's a word limit here.. so let me just finish my rant with ... complain obnoxiously and threaten boycott on the stores selling this monstrous stuff. We have to unite quickly and loudly or simply starve.

Janine_2
9/11/2009 6:55:41 PM
I'm mad too, and struggling the same questions I had with the chinese baby food scandals. How How How ??? How can these shmuckity schmucks sleep at night ? Don't they have wives and children - who garden or eat food ? Do they even live on this planet ? My garden has had some off things this season, gnarled sunflowers, Brugmansias' with thick clubbing at the top, my potatoes entirely lost and I thought I had somehow I had over-watered or was dealing with a calcium deficiency. Thankfully my berries have all been fine. I am ashamed to admit this, but I'll cleanse my conscience here... I bought cheap **** from Wal-Mart. I hate hate hate the store but was so broke this spring I went there for soil amendments. Steer Manure @.98 and some mushroom compost and other compost. I rationalized I was often buying it even cheaper from their scratch and dent pallet. Practically noble. I used last years' compost on my tomatoes and they've all been fine and healthy this year. I've been in quite a tizzy about this ever since last week when I read about what tainted compost sold at a Farmers Market down the valley from me has done to about 100 folks's gardens and Farms. People who use their land to grow food as a Business like me. I'm just sick, wanting to write to the EPA without merely ranting. This will make Global Warming a minor player if our ground is so corrupted we can't grow food. I'm really grief-stricken thinking of all my neighbors down the Bitterroot... This Fall I am carefully scraping up my top dressings and container soils that might be affected and feeding it all to my composting worm in a special bin. I just don't know what else to do. Too bad we can't execute them like China did. That might make the next guard a bit more cautious. Let's scream and holler about this Folks !! Make the calls , write the letters, warn your friends, INFORM your "Lawn Perfect" neighbors, complain obn

SusanS
8/6/2009 1:19:29 PM
I have lost most of my potatoes, five of my tomato plants, and most of my pepper plants are in the process of dying. I bought composted manure in bags from Home Depot, thinking (obviously wrongly) that it would have better controls on ingredients than stuff I could get from local farms. I have spent the whole summer trying everything I could to make it better, only to read this article and realize that my problem is soil itself. And that it isn't going to get better for perhaps several years. I can't tell you how angry this makes me.

Ellen Thompson
8/5/2009 6:26:12 PM
I have a comment to Erin regarding fleas on her cat: Fleas are opportunistic parasites. They infest those animals with impaired immune systems. A raw food diet (raw meat with its fat, small amount of cooked whole grains, pureed raw vegetables, supplements) will make the cat's body unappetizing to parasites. To get rid of the fleas in the meantime, get a flea comb and comb the cat, knocking the fleas into a bowl of soapy water. When I got my (now 17 year-old) cat from a shelter as a 4 month old, she was infested with fleas and worms. She has NEVER had an issue with any parasite since then and she has the energy and demeanor of a young cat. Look for the Pitcairn book of healthy dogs and cats for more information; also see The New Natural Cat, Anitra Frazier. If I may be of further help to you, you can e-mail me at: innate4you at q dot com. I wish you the best.

Erin_13
8/2/2009 8:49:10 PM
This is a question, not a comment. Does anyone know of a natural way to get rid of fleas on a cat? The problem is too, that it is an indoor/outdoor cat, so I'm sure there are fleas on all the carpet. Any and all suggestions are welcomed. Thank you

Don Stephens_2
8/1/2009 11:56:54 AM
It takes five years to get Organic Status and in one treatment of the tainted stuff from Dow you loose it not to mention what effect this is having on honey bees and why they are dying

Anthony costes
7/31/2009 3:31:02 PM
To add to Ken O's comment about BT, a health newsletter (http://www.totalhealthbreakthroughs.com/2009/07/gm-foods-a-real-killer/) reports that GM foods (particularly inoculated with BT) to control pests contained the toxic pesticide in concentrations thousands of times higher than the spray version. Because it is genetically introduced into the seeds of the plants (corn and cotton) it cannot be washed off because it's part on the plant. The health risks of GM foods include “infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system, as referenced in... http://www.responsibletechnology.org/utility/showArticle/?objectID=2989.

Ken O'Neill
7/31/2009 1:55:23 PM
Here is another very devious supposedly "organic" pesticide which is known amongst "organic" gardeners as a 'magic" pesticide: BT or Bacillus thuringiensis: " * Increasingly, the types of Bt being used are rare strains that are performance-enhanced or sometimes genetically engineered. The use of Bt pesticides has spread from farms and occasional homeowner use to the spraying of millions of acres every year around the world, often over large tracts of forest land or areas with large urban populations. * The Bt strains being used are applied at rates up to one billion times the natural levels. Often, they wipe out entire families of insects in the sprayed areas. For instance, Btk, a strain used to control moth pests such as tussock and gypsy moth, kills all insects in the Lepidoptera family (moths and butterflies). Soil biota is also affected – there is evidence to show that nematodes and predator insects (that would naturally control the pest population) are depressed also. * Despite Bt’s purported safety for humans, no long term testing has ever been done to assure its safety. Why should you worry? o Bt is extremely similar (so much so it is difficult to distinguish without sophisticated testing) to two other bacteria, B. cereus, which causes food poisoning, and B. anthracis, which causes anthrax. o Bt secretes many of the same toxins B. cereus does when it is growing. There is mounting evidence that spores germinate in humans and can live for extended periods of time in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. The effect of these low level infections is unknown, but there have been isolated reports of disease caused by Bt. One of the reasons Bt may not be seen as a common cause of sickness is that it is very hard to test for its presence – many cases diagnosed as B. cereus gastroenteritis (a fairly common form of food poisoning) may in fact be caused by Bt. o People with sensit

Smooth
7/30/2009 8:13:49 PM
Anyone interested in contacting the Dow Agroscience corporation to file a "problem" from their stuff, this might be the link http://www.dowagro.com/rc/steward/aerf.htm Otherwise look into Dow.com and check their "ethics" link. Provides for good entertainment.

Corky
7/26/2009 8:39:13 PM
I have been confused all spring/summer about 'what' I could have done wrong in my garden this year. My carefully tended 'organic' sheet mulching was causing what I thought was a 'virus'. It was affecting plants that are unrelated and in our arid Colorado climate. My sheet mulch contains some hay we brought in! Nice job Dow. There are no accidents.

Weaver_2
7/25/2009 6:40:48 PM
My neighbor is the same way. He said to me once "So, you don't use any weed killer? How do you get rid of the weeds then, pull them up?" Duh!

MC_2
7/24/2009 1:24:29 PM
Enough to make a conspiracy theorist out of you, ain't it??? You'd think we'd have learned something since DDT. I tend to question why use herbicides at all. Mow, weed, lay down weed stop, or live with it. They're as bad for the crop as for the weeds, they're more costly than long pants and a good tick check, and grass, after all, is just a weed we've decided we like. My neighbor is a Manicured Lawn Type. Thinks a healthy sprinkling of Sevin is the best way to deal with ticks, too. The longer I live next to him, the more I want to MOVE!!!!







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