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Why are Monsanto and Dow Waging War on Dandelions?

  • Written by  Amber Lovejoy
As a child, I loved dandelions, and I still do…but other people hate them. As a child, I loved dandelions, and I still do…but other people hate them.

Every war has its unlikely soldiers. There’s my retired neighbor again- the one I wrote about before. His wife died of cancer, and then his golden retriever died of cancer. I feel really bad for him, he’s so alone, and in his loneliness...he’s at war.

It’s wartime right now in his yard. Today he’s chosen chemical warfare to combat an enemy he despises almost as much as he despised the people he fought against years ago in Vietnam.

Around his yard he goes, marching to and fro, with determination bordering on obsession.

On other days he has other weapons. Some are noisy and polluting. But mostly he relies on chemical warfare, and he has a formidable arsenal of poisons to choose from.

Flowers for some, weeds for others, poisons for all…

Almost always, he chooses a windy day to do battle, and this choice directly affects me. I was enjoying myself outdoors in my side yard when his latest battle began. The way I notice this is…my eyes start to water, I start coughing, then get a headache.

I rush inside and shut my windows. Sure enough, my neighbor is downwind, spraying Monsanto’s Roundup, or Weed-B-Gon Max, which contains 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), an ingredient of Agent Orange, the toxic herbicide contaminated with deadly dioxin: U.S. forces sprayed 20 million gallons of this poison to kill the forests and crops of the Vietnamese during the Vietnam war.

Unfortunately, Agent Orange also killed hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and caused birth defects in hundreds of thousands of others, but as Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney would say, war is hell, kids, and sometimes you just have to live with the consequences…

Or die with them, depending on whether you were the sprayer or the sprayed, whether you were an infantryman on the front lines or a general who sat in a comfortable office looking at lines on a map, while the front ranks died.

And what a strange coincidence that Monsanto and Dow, today’s purveyors of Roundup or 2,4-D, were the corporations that manufactured Agent Orange for the military.

Monsanto used to tell people that Roundup was biodegradable, safe for humans, and good for the environment. Good for the environment? And this poison is legal in the USA? I never could figure out how our government regulators allow people to spray Agent Orange ingredients in our neighborhoods.

At least New York’s Attorney General had the good sense to sue Monsanto for misleading advertising, and despite the efforts of Monsanto’s army of lawyers, Monsanto lost.

Monsanto also lost in France in 2007, when its Scotts France CEO (yes Scotts Miracle-Gro is a Monsanto clone) was convicted of lying about Roundup’s environmental effects.

Roundup and other common lawn poisons have been linked to cancer, hormone problems and other serious health issues in humans and non-human animals.

But even though my neighbor’s wife and dog died of cancer, he continues to use bucketfuls of herbicides, including those containing some of the same ingredients as Agent Orange!

My neighbor’s target isn’t plants and trees in Vietnam—it’s a highly-nutritious, edible native plant known for its medicinal benefits, its tasty zest in salads, as a substitute for coffee, even as a base for tea and sweet wine.

“Dandelions, these god damned dandelions,” my neighbor mutters under his breath, as he patrols his yard, scowling at the dandelion flowers.

He’s more worked up than usual today. Maybe he just saw one of those herbicide manufacturer’s clever television commercials showing a beautiful yellow flower and a round head of wispy, floaty, fluffy seedpods that children used to blow into the wind in springtime.

These ominous anti-flower television ads made by cash-heavy herbicide corporations show a carpet of lawn grass, like a green plastic sheath, or in some cases a crack in a driveway…violated by a yellow flower and its dandelion head.

It only takes one flower to ruin an entire lawn or driveway!

The horror. The impudence. The shock of seeing a weed breaking the golf course perfection of one’s front lawn, or the concrete grayness of one’s driveway.

When you live as a beleaguered homeowner in the suburbs (our property taxes go up every year because the property values go down, go figure) when you only have .19 of an acre total property, much of it covered over by a house and driveway, when your neighbors expect you to tame your lawn with poisons and machines just like they do, when your life is empty of real meaning and you desperately need to exercise control over something, anything…that one damned dandelion can seem like Nature’s litter strewn onto one’s green lawn carpet.

To my neighbor and millions like him, dandelions are a damnable, insidious weed. A “useless” plant.

And we know what to do to weeds. If we are good suburbanites, loyal to the suburban creed, obedient to the herbicide advertisements, we kill kill kill them with strong poison.

No matter that some of that poison goes into the air and harms our neighbors, harms birds, bees, butterflies.

Or into the ground and groundwater. Into lakes and creeks. It harms the frogs. It harms fish. It harms ducks. It harms the children. It harms golden retrievers…

In fact, my neighbor’s veterinarian told him that the dog’s incredibly fast-moving, terribly painful lymphoma was probably caused by lawn chemicals. I know this because my friend works for the veterinarian.

My neighbor’s reaction when he was told this: he stormed out of the vet’s office.

I’ve gently suggested to my neighbor that instead of poisoning dandelions, that he stir fry them, eat them in salads, make tea from them, or just admire the vibrant yellow flowers, and the sweet seed pods that so valiantly float away seeking new homes, on the spring breezes.

Or use a natural herbicide, like vinegar and dish soap. Way better for the environment than Agent Orange.

Or he could listen to the Rolling Stones sing about dandelions.

He told me it was my fault he has to poison his lawn: “You’re a lazy hippie who doesn’t control the weeds on her lawn.”

I’ve caught him spraying poison on my lawn, and it made me upset with him, but then I remembered he’s just another of the millions of Americans programmed by poison companies.

Instead of yelling at him, I said: Please don’t poison my lawn…it’s a sanctuary for birds, bees, butterflies, rabbits, snakes, flowers, herbs. A sanctuary for living things that were here long before this suburb was built.

I saw a brief flicker of realization in his eyes. He looked down at the ground. Kind of apologized. Shuffled away. But will he live on, only to poison our world another day?

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Last modified on Monday, 23 September 2013 21:53

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