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Monsanto Superweeds Destroying American Agriculture

Superweeds are ruining American agriculture thanks to Monsanto. Superweeds are ruining American agriculture thanks to Monsanto.

 

How did our nation get strangled by a herbicide-resistant strain of superweeds?” It’s a frightening tale that begins a little over two decades ago, when scientists at Monsanto created genetically modified seeds that would grow even after the land was doused with chemically-laden herbicides. At first, the promise was simple: Use these seeds and you'll need fewer chemical sprays because these seeds will grow better. It's true that GMO seeds are genetically engineered to resist the harsh toxins of herbicides. But not just any herbicide - Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide, Roundup. The seeds were dubbed Roundup Ready and along with Roundup, they dominate the U.S. Agricultural landscape.


That original promise, however, didn't last long. It turns out, years of spraying plants and crops with a single herbicide led to an adaptation of the plant-life ecosystem and the growth of “superweeds.” They are now killing our nation's crops.

What Are Superweeds?

Superweeds are mutant weeds that developed a resistance to almost every herbicide currently used by farmers, including Roundup. Super pigweeds invaded the farmlands of the Mississippi Delta, choking millions of acres of cotton and that is just one example of over of 11 superweed varieties.

The notion of superweeds or that America’s farmers had made a deal with the devil didn’t occur to anyone for some time. Engineering agricultural genes and the monopolizing of herbicides by a single company didn’t even strike everyone as odd at first. Farmers were too busy celebrating the perceived ease with which they could now earn a living. Roundup meant they could stop the growth of destructive weeds with less labor and less money spent. They could plant the Roundup Ready seeds of America’s biggest cash crops including corn, soy, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets and the popular lawn turf, Kentucky bluegrass, and not worry about their crops failing.

 Soon, doctors and people from communities around the world started voicing concerns over the dangerous mutant food, the birth defects and rising cancer rates in places where herbicides were used frequently.


Soon, doctors and people from communities around the world started voicing concerns over the dangerous mutant food, the birth defects and rising cancer rates in places where herbicides were used frequently. Then, local farmers realized that Monsanto was seed monopolizing and filing million dollar lawsuits over GMO seeds flying into innocent farmers' territory.

Now, farmers have to contend with unmanageable superweeds too.

"I've never seen anything that had this major an impact on our agriculture in a short period of time," said Ken Smith, a weed scientist at the University of Arkansas.

Superweeds are not exactly a new phenomenon. For several years, concerned farmers were reporting cases from all over the world, including Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Europe, South Africa and Australia of various weeds that stopped responding to Roundup.

Concern over the issue is at an all-time high and the solution Monsanto and the other agri-giants propose is scarier than the problem itself.

The Unstoppable Spread Of Superweeds

Here are the numbers associated with superweeds: In the U.S., 94 percent of soybeans and over 70 percent of corn and cotton now contain the Roundup-resistant gene. Over half of U.S. states are plagued by agrochemical-induced superweeds. These superweeds cover over 4.5 million hectares in the United States and well-over 120 million hectares internationally.

Without regulation of their spread, superweeds are cross-pollinating the weeds around them with the resistant gene, and this spreads mutant weeds further than ever imagined.

"Pollen can transfer the resistant trait; that's the problem," said Kevin Bradley, a weed scientist with the University of Missouri. "There's not much we can do about pollen flying through the air, and that's why we see such rapid spread of resistance."

For a while, farmers just used more herbicide. They used combinations of three of four toxic herbicides all at once. They kept on spraying.


For a while, farmers just used more herbicide. They used combinations of three of four toxic herbicides all at once. They kept on spraying.

Other pesticide and herbicide manufacturers saw this as an opportunity. If Roundup, the biggest brand of herbicide world, had fallen then this was a chance for others to get back in the game. Dow Chemical, DuPont, and Syngenta began a revival of their older herbicides, which were still able to kill superweeds.

Monsanto-Made Super Insects Destroy Our Nation's Crops

Roundup is just the beginning. Genetically modified Bt, a Monsanto-made pesticide, has created a number of new mutated insect species, or superinsects. The Western rootworm beetle, one of the most serious threats to corn, has developed resistance to Monsanto’s Bt pesticide. Farmers planting corn crops are engrossed in a losing battle.

Not to mention the dangers of Bt for humans. “It kills human kidney cells,” reports Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji in a medical journal.

Renowned naturalist Terrence Ingram had his privately owned bee colonies seized by The Illinois Agricultural Department because Ingram was researching Roundup’s effects on bees.

“They ruined 15 years of my research,” he said.

The allegations thrown at Ingram hinged on the state saying his colonies were infected with a bee bacterial disease known as American Foulbrood. Ingram says he can prove that none of this is true. Meanwhile, his beloved bees have gone missing. Ingram doesn’t even know if they are dead or alive.

He believes the bees were turned over to Monsanto because some of his bees were naturally resistant to Roundup. Without the bees as evidence, Ingram will have a very difficult time proving their health and safety.

This year, this USDA has approved the planting of genetically modified seeds for some of our nation's biggest crop varieties.  

Since this case broke, some Illinois beekeepers have gone underground, refusing to register their hives for fear of corporately-funded state persecution.

USDA In Bed With Monsanto

If the past is doomed to repeat itself, then these chemical substitutes will lead to weeds that outlive multiple chemicals. Some superweeds have started to show a resistance to the multiple herbicide mixtures already.

Monsanto employees aren't at all worried about Dow and the others. In fact, they're ready to roll out new superweed super killers like 2,4-D, the controversial herbicide that was a key ingredient in Agent Orange and dicamba, an older chemical that will be added to Roundup and on shelves by 2015. The long-term health and environmental effects of dicamba are still undetermined.

The United States Drug Administration has acknowledged the issues surrounding superweeds, yet they have no plan in place to ban or even regulate Roundup or Roundup ready seeds. They are doing just the opposite.

This year, this USDA has approved the planting of genetically modified seeds for some of our nation's biggest crop varieties. They have also cut approval times to speed up the releases of new chemical mixtures from Monsanto and others.

These irrevocable USDA plans will create more farmland that is dependent on Monsanto seeds and Monsanto herbicides. It will create lawns, parks, farms, sports arenas and golf courses teeming with unconquerable superweeds and carcinogenic spray leftovers. Ironically, even after all of the controversies, Monsanto sales in the U.S. are growing. Their chemicals caused superweeds in the first place and now farmers will apply more Monsanto chemicals to kill the weeds caused by Monsanto chemicals. It is a dizzying prospect, a rabbit hole with no end in site other than the collapse of the agriculture industry as we know it.

© Copyright RosebudMag.com, 2012



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Last modified on Tuesday, 26 June 2012 14:07

Laura Vladimirova is a freelance journalist currently based out of New York City. Years of long-term travel abroad have made her a passionate lifestyles writer. Her favorite subjects include art, people, archaeology, travel, cultural events, health, and green living. When she's not typing away at her keyboard or getting her passport stamped, she's probably enjoying the great outdoors.

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/LauraV

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