Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Rise of Super Weeds.

Picture of genetically enhanced super weeds taking over American farms.

The respected science magazine, Nature, has reported that farmers are losing the battle against new super weeds. These weeds have evolved as the result of genetically modified [GM] crops that are resistant to glyphosphate [aka Roundup].  

“Weed resistance is a game changer for agriculture in the same way that drug resistance has been a game changer for the health-care industry,” says agronomist Harold Coble at the Office of Pest Management Policy, who spoke on 10 May at a Weed Summit in Washington DC convened by the National Academies.

Farmers who use these new GM crops are typically using much more herbicides [weed killer] than those who don't, but not all of the weeds die. The ones that do live are the ones most resistant to Roundup. These Roundup resistant weeds then evolve into even tougher weeds as higher concentrations and different mixtures of Roundup and other weed killers are used. Some are even turning to 2,4-D, part of the infamous Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War. 

How did this come about? Monsanto, the maker of Roundup and Roundup resistant Soybeans, has declared war on any farmer who dared to collect seeds using their GM patented crops.  There have been numerous cases where a farmer's neighbor may have planted these GM crops, and it cross-pollinated normal Soybeans. These new cross-pollinated soy beans now have the Roundup resistant gene. If the farmer then saved any of the seeds for replanting Monsanto would take legal action to stop them. So through a tactic of legal intimidation and successful marketing practices, the majority of soybeans now planted in North America are of the GM type.

What do gene patents have to do with super weeds?  Call it blowback. If Monsanto and others were not able to patent this technology, it is questionable whether these GM crops would be in such high use. If they were not is such high use, the farmers would not have used so much weed killer, and instead would have used more natural methods.



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