The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of GMOs

“Roundup-ready” crops — i.e., those that can tolerate the herbicide Roundup — were introduced by Monsanto in the 1990′s, and brought big environmental benefits: farmers had to plow less frequently, resulting in reduced erosion and less fertilizer and pesticide runoff. A new breed of Roundup-resistant super-weeds, however, is jeopardizing that progress, as affected farmers are forced to “spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand, and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing.” Meanwhile, Monsanto and DuPont are at work on a new technology: drought-resistant crops. This technology will be particularly useful in drought-prone areas, including those that might be negatively affected by global warming.[%comments]

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  1. Robin says:

    Nature finds a way.
    -Dr. Ian Malcolm

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  2. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for the mention of the new drought resistant technology we are working on, Stephen and Steven. One of our employees wrote a blog post following up the recent New York Times article expressing their thoughts and addressing some issues surrounding the notion of “superweeds” and Roundup resistant weeds. You can read about it on our blog, Beyond the Rows.

    Roundup Resistant “Superweeds” In the News

    Thanks again,

    Kathleen
    Monsanto Company

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  3. Bill Freese says:

    Actually, biotech companies like Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer and BASF are all devoting most of their resources to developing new crops resistant to other herbicides (to better kill Roundup-resistant weeds). Dow has soybeans and corn resistant to 2,4-D (one component of the Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange). 2,4-D has been linked to increased rates of cancer in pesticide applicators, and can be laced with low levels of dioxins. Monsanto is working on soybeans resistant to dicamba, a chlorinated weedkiller very much like 2,4-D. DuPont has soybeans and corn resistant to imidazolinones and glyphosate (active ingredient of Roundup). For EIGHT such pesticide-promoting GM crops awaiting approval by our USDA right now, see http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/not_reg.html.

    These herbicide-resistant crops will mean greater pollution of the environment and more exposure to toxic herbicides (farmers), more herbicide residues in food (all of us), and weeds with resistance to multiple herbicides. For a report documenting the increased pesticide use with GM crops, see http://www.organic-center.org/science.pest.php?action=view&report_id=159.

    Remember, all the major biotech companies are pesticide manufacturers that have bought up major seed companies. It shouldn’t surprise us that they’re using biotechnology to make pesticide-promoting seeds. Roundup-resistant weeds are just the start — It’s the pesticide-treadmill, but now thanks to biotech, in high gear.

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  4. Nosybear says:

    So…. Did they really think those weeds wouldn’t evolve?

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  5. Kathie Biddle says:

    There was a FRONTLINE documentary not long ago about Monsanto’s successful attempts to stop farmers from saving seeds, even if they had never planted GMO crops. Monsanto maintained they owned the patent on the genes that confered resistance, even after those genes had migrated to non-GMO crops. By that arguement, Monsanto owns the super weeds, and is responsible for them. Farm country lawyers, take note!

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  6. Brooke says:

    As Kathie Biddle mentions, when Monsanto comes out with a product (and a policy) that short-circuits nature and tries to rope farmers into buying new seeds every year, it seems like a perversion of the system. Why shouldn’t farmers be able to use and plant the seeds from the crops they’ve raised? Why should a company have the right to tell farmers what they can or can’t do with successive generations of the plants they raise?

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  7. Tucker says:

    Um the things they are trumpeting as drought resistant are pretty marginal gains compared to the generation of crop development in the 60s and 70s. Then the generation of round-up ready crops were over-planted so that farmers didn’t gain any benefit from the technology.

    I’d like to hear more nonetheless, corn has specific times in its life cycle where late rain can cause half the crop to fail or worse. If they are understanding the science of how to solve that problem it could be groundbreaking, but if the science is kept secret the result would be marginal yield improvements in the US rather than preventing millions of deaths in drought vulnerable areas of the tropics.

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  8. Rudiger in Jersey says:

    IF you can’t beat them, then join them.
    Weeds grow without encouragement, nutrients and water. Crops need fertilizer, insecticide, fungicide, organic materials and generous water.

    Why not hybirdize the aggressive self sufficient weeds with delectable crop plants? Make a zuchini that naturalizes like a weed and with lots of hardiness and drought resistance.
    A weed that produces a juicy, tasty tomato will change the world.

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