Claims by biotech giant Monsanto that its glyphosate-based pesticide, Roundup, can improve crop yields and lessen the strain of fighting weeds for farmers may now be a liability after a recent study published in the current issue of Weed Science finds that a number of weed species are showing resistance to Roundup.
Twenty-one species, according to the study, have become resistant to glyphosate-based pesticides, with many also capable of surviving applications of other pesticides, earning them the moniker “super-weeds.”
The impact pesticide-resistant weeds has is significant: Changes in soil bacteria, resistance to antibiotics, excessive use of a number of pesticides and crop yield loss all result in dangerous food and rising food prices.
Fast Company recently reported that pigweed, a super-weed, grows as much as three inches a day, damages farm equipment and can result in crippling losses for farmers as well as damaging the environment along the way. Andrew Wargo III, president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts told Fast Company, pesticide resistant weeds are possibly the “single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen.”
Monsanto has long held the position that Roundup and companion Roundup Ready genetically-modified seeds would not lead to weed resistance. But, in light of recent research, the company has since modified its position, and is now suggesting that preventing super-weeds might require crop rotation and varying applications of pesticides.
But will it be too little too late?
Since 2007, the number of acres infested with glyphosate-resistant super-weeds is up from 2.4 million to more than 11 million, and Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds are teetering on ubiquity, with more than 90 percent of soy and 70 percent of corn and cotton grown in the U.S. this year being genetically modified. Another recent study also linked the drastic decrease in Monarch butterfly populations to Monsanto’s Roundup.
An investigation launched by the SEC earlier this year alleges that lagging Roundup sales led Monsanto to questionable incentive programs and misstated expected earnings that artificially inflated Monsanto’s stock.
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