This short history of Agent Orange is provided by our friend Paul Sutton. The "exploding watermelon" article illustrates and reflects the early history of Agent Orange. Thanks to Paul
Agent Orange is the code name for one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. A 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, it was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical.
The 2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Orange was later discovered to be contaminated with 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, an extremely toxic dioxin compound. It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped 55 US gallon barrels in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides". In 1943 plant biologist Dr. Arthur Galston began studying the compound triiodobenzoic acid as a plant growth hormone, in an attempt to adapt soybeans to a short growing season. The intent was to accelerate the plant’s growth cycle, allowing the sprayed specimen to grow to seedling to mature plant in less than one-half its normal life cycle.
Galston found that excessive usage of the compound caused catastrophic defoliation — a finding later used by his colleague Ian Sussex to develop the family of herbicides used in Operation Ranch Hand. Galston was especially concerned about the compound's side effects to humans and the environment. In 1943, the U.S. Department of the Army contracted the University of Chicago to study the effects of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T on cereal grains (including rice) and broadleaf crops.
From these studies arose the concept of using aerial applications of herbicides to destroy enemy crops to disrupt their food supply. In early 1945, the U.S. army ran tests of various 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T mixtures which ultimately became Operation Farm Gate in Vietnam in 1961, which evolved into Operation Ranch Hand that lasted until January 1971.
BEIJING, China (AP) --
Watermelons have been bursting by the score in eastern China after farmers gave them overdoses of growth chemicals during wet weather, creating what state media called fields of "land mines."
About 20 farmers around Danyang city in Jiangsu province were affected, losing up to 115 acres (45 hectares) of melon, China Central Television said in an investigative report.
Prices over the past year prompted many farmers to jump into the watermelon market. All of those with exploding melons apparently were first-time users of the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron, though it has been widely available for some time, CCTV said in the report broadcast Monday night.
Chinese regulations don't forbid the drug, and it is allowed in the U.S. on kiwi fruit and grapes. But the report underscores how farmers in China are abusing both legal and illegal chemicals, with many farms misusing pesticides and fertilizers.
Wang Liangju, a professor with College of Horticulture at Nanjing Agricultural University who has been to Danyang since the problems began to occur, said that forchlorfenuron is safe and effective when used properly.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/05/17/international/i030801D13.DTL#ixzz1MjSBLG1C