Soy farm

Monsanto’s hard at work on gearing up for the 2014 release of its Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, which will be not only resistant to the common glyphosate pesticide marketed by Monsanto as Roundup, but also the chemical dicamba, in efforts to combat the increasing number of weeds and bugs adapting to resist Roundup that are causing crop loss and damage.

Part of Monsanto’s Genuity brand of soy, the company claims the product “offers farmers the highest yield opportunity with more beans per pod and more bushels per acre.” But questions abound about whether or not the multi-pesticide resistant seeds will offer any substantial long-term protection for farmers, or just lead to more prevalent pesticide resistance and reliance on heavier applications of pesticides.

Genetically modified seeds have been promoted as requiring less use of pesticides, but glyphosate levels have risen dramatically in the U.S. since its early use. In 1986, there were an estimated 6,308,000 pounds of glyphosate used in the United Sates. Nearly 60 million pounds of the chemical are used today.

Dicamba (3,6-dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic acid) is a human developmental toxin that already has a history of leading to resistant plants. It causes abnormal growth patterns in plants that often lead to death by disrupting the hormonal system. Dicamba is known to leach significantly out of soil, which the National Institute of Health considers “an environmental concern.”

Monsanto is not the only company looking into developing alternative pesticide-resistant seeds, now that glyphosate is being gamed by Mother Nature. Dow is releasing 2,4-D resistant soy and corn. 2,4-D is a major component in Agent Orange, the highly toxic chemical used in defoliation during the Vietnam War.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: RichardBH