The Observatory

Biotech bogeymen: The San Francisco Chronicle’s muddled swipe at GE crops

If you’re worried about pesticides, then the San Francisco Chronicle has a sweeping indictment of genetically engineered (GE) crops to sell you.

At the end of April, the paper published an article by its Washington correspondent, Carolyn Lochhead, on its front page that used narrowly defined concerns about a new type of GE corn to mount a weakly reported tirade against all biotech crops.

The apparent impetus for, and central thread of, the Chronicle’s story was the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) expected approval of Dow Chemical’s Enlist brand corn, which is engineered to tolerate the herbicide 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid.

2,4-D, as it’s commonly known, has been around since the 1940s and is widely used to kill broadleaf weeds. It has gained new attention in recent years, as farmers nationwide struggle with weeds that have developed resistance to Monsanto’s Roundup—generically known as glyphosate—their herbicide of choice for more than three decades.

“Superweeds,” as the media dubbed them, are a huge problem and the use of chemicals like 2,4-D and dicamba, another herbicide, to control them is worrisome. While all herbicides can drift during spraying, these vaporize more easily than glyphosate, facilitating travel to other fields where they can damage crops that weren’t designed to withstand them. 2,4-D has been linked to a number of human health problems, although the science is disputed.

Titanic proportions


Copies of original newspapers describing the sinking of the Titanic rest in an exhibit at the South Street Seaport Museum commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in New York


You can’t sink a good story.

The past few months have produced countless articles, columns, photo galleries, videos, and sundry media clips about the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic striking an iceberg and foundering in the frigid North Atlantic in the early hours of April 15, 1912.

The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach reported that the president of the Titanic Historical Society found himself “besieged with interview requests” as he tried to survive the centennial. Wrote Achenbach:

This has become a media event as huge and flamboyant as the great ship that lies in ragged ruin at the bottom of the Atlantic.

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