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]


Robin

Nature finds a way.
-Dr. Ian Malcolm

Kathleen

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

Bill Freese

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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Nosybear

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

Kathie Biddle

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!

Brooke

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?

Tucker

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.

Rudiger in Jersey

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.

avirr

The round-up resistance migrating shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Environmentalists were saying all along that it would spread.

How about some credit to the reality-based community?

Paul B

IMy enviormentalist friend Lori warned me about all of this years ago...This morning I hear it on Morning Joe..I guess I should have paid attention all those years ago...Sorry

Stephen Grimmer

So, now we've got Roundup-ready weeds?

adoo

I think corporates in America have gotten away with a lot in the name of free enterprise, capitalism, whatever... as shown in 'Food Inc' (the documentary), the entire food chain in the US is controlled by 4 or 5 mega corporations, who are basically deciding what food will be made available to us. The tragedy is that like with the Wall Street excesses, other countries & especially developing countries are now in the vice of the likes of Monsanto.
While Congress wakes up from its slumber & decides to act in the interests of the people rather than the corporations, I agree with Kathie Biddle (commenter #5 here) that lawyers must go after the likes of Monsanto for conducting mass experiments on humans.

bob Klein

HA- nice one- a thank you note from Monsanto. They have corrupted the political/regulatory process in this country to such an extent just to sell weed killer and terminator seeds that don't even work anymore, as was predicted by many! GM soy in a recent Russian study even caused INFERTILITY in the third generation offspring of hamsters. Yet GM technology is the official position of our foreign aid bill, as well as our Ag secretary. Monsanto's former vice-president is now head of Food Safety at the FDA!!!! How's that for corruption! Talk about superweeds! Their in our government! Thanks, Monsanto!

Stephanie

Joining in on this cozy conversation...very in tune with y'all...and the thank you note from Monsanto definitely adds some ironic flava'!. I gotta big chuckle out of that one myself...I'm not quite sure how Monsanto employees sleep at night!

Friends: Keep a raised brow in the direction of this company and all its other companies. This "revolving doors" pattern must stop b/t these companies and FDA and EPA and... (this is what "bob Klein, comment #13" is referring to.

more info "revolving doors" in various documentaries:

1) "The World According to Monsanto,"
2) " Food Inc."
3) " The Future of Food"
4) look up Michael Pollan on youtube...great books!

From an ex-pat living on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico...this company is reaping havoc here with its bio-tech caos masked behind the veil of economic promise for the Island...and Puerto Rico doesn't even appear on its website! It's even seeped into what I thought were respectable academic initiatives on the Island.

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David Kamerschen

Dear God,

I don't ask you for much but please, please kill Monsanto

Travis

Kathie,

If only the courts would be willing to put the burden of the negative externalities of the RoundUp Ready Genes on Monsanto.

It seems specious, to me, to claim ownership of the genes AND the plants that embody them, but then to argue that you are not responsible for any damages caused by the plant. To my knowledge that was their successful position in a semi recent RoundUp Ready Canola case from Canada.

AM

Monsanto-DuPont-Bayer and companies like them are the "axis of evil" !

Here, the farmers have already lost the battle. The government agencies have been bought...and they now eating up the land/resources in India/Africa/Brazil and many other places in the world...They should be kept away. period.

thousands of farmers in India are committing suicides due to the havoc that is borne out of this "patentizing" of nature...Everyone who invests in these companies have their blood on their hands...

Nate J

1) Several studies have shown organ damage as a result of GMO crop consumption.

2) The practice of suing farmers for hundreds of thousands of dollars because the Monsanto seeds drift onto their natural crops and cross-bred with them is deplorable at best...

unbelievable to think that this mega-corporation would do that to the people who are the backbone of this country who are simply trying to make an honest living

3) GMO's increase pesticide use in general. Farmers cans pray the carcinogenic substances as much as possible, all over the crops, leading to COLONY COLLAPSE disorder indirectly....Einstein said once the bees go, humans are next, well, not a whole lot of bees are surviving in the toxic environment we created for them these days.

4) If you think this is about stopping world hunger and things like that you don't know anything about the way capitalism works. Farmers in India saw their livestock die grazing on GM cotton...many of them committed suicide due to poor corp yields, etc. Watch The Future of Food. We need more studies on GMO crops (INDEPENDENT, somehow!!) before we commit to something that could cause IRREVERSIBLE damage to our great Mother Earth.

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Sam Gardner

This is not really "the good, bad and ugly" even if you decide for a certain mechanical weed control (pulling every 15 days e.g.) you will see that the population of weeds evolves so quickly as to make your single weed control mechanism ineffectual after a few seasons.

In a next step weeds that used to be controlled are selected for a shorter growing and there ends your practice. This is why wise farmers practice crop rotation and different weed control measures, even when it does not seem necessary. Anybody in the corn belt hears me?

CC

"GM soy in a recent Russian study even caused INFERTILITY in the third generation offspring of hamsters."

Are you sure that wasn't just because it was soy, rather than the GM factor? Soy contains phytoestrogens (hormone-mimicking chemicals), and phytoestrogens have been known to affect animal fertility.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean#Phytoestrogen
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytoestrogens

People also worry about soy being a carcinogen, but as long as it's not GM you know no one is going to get that upset about it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean#Carcinogen

You know that if they had the same concerns for a GM product you'd hear about it all over the place and people would be up in arms. As it is, raw soy flour causes pancreatic cancer in mice, cooked soy flour doesn't, no big deal. But if that were a GM product, people would be outraged and find it terrifying.