Dear Monsanto, Thank You for the Superweeds
Happy pigweed and lambsquarters enjoying themselves in a soybean field. Image by pawpaw67 via Flickr
The road to hell is paved with unintended consequences. I'm convinced that, if we don't get our act together, this slight edit on the old adage about good intentions will be humanity's downfall. Oops, we didn't mean for BPA to do that! PCB and DDT are accumulating where?
Now, thanks to Monsanto's corporate "genius" we have so-called superweeds. Click through for the view from the farm. Superweeds are not a new consequence of genetically modified crops. A recent article in the New York Times tells us that the first glyphosate resistant weed was found in 2000 in a Delaware soybean field. In the past 10 years 10 more resistant species have been discovered in 22 states, mostly in corn, soy and cotton fields.
The Times sums up how superweeds came to be and what it might mean for farmers and for food prices.
Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers' near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds.
To fight them, Mr. Anderson and farmers throughout the East, Midwest and South are being forced to spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing.
"We're back to where we were 20 years ago," said Mr. Anderson, who will plow about one-third of his 3,000 acres of soybean fields this spring, more than he has in years. "We're trying to find out what works."
Farm experts say that such efforts could lead to higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs and more pollution of land and water.
The silver lining in all of this is that Monsanto's unbalanced dominance of the U.S. ag sector could be in danger as farmers and the public lose confidence in their products. Science and on farm experience are leading to the same conclusion that common sense already assumes. A food system with a foundation built on patented seeds that will withstand patented herbicides can only led to trouble.
Note: There's a great supplement to this NYT story that has farmers and food system thinkers adding their two cents. Michael Pollan offers up this tidbit, "What a surprise! Roundup-resistant weeds have shown up in fields that have been doused with Roundup! Shocking!"
More on Monsanto
Study Finds Monsanto's GMO Corn Causes Organ Damage in Rodents
The Fight Over the Future of Food: Monsanto, GMOs, and How to Feed the World
Monsanto "Seedless" Corn Sold To South African Farmers
Germany Bans Planting of Monsanto GM Corn
Out, Monsanto! No GMOs in National Wildlife Refuge, Says Federal Judge
Monsanto and Michael Pollan Talk About Creating a World That Can Feed Itself