In the last two articles, I told you about a little homespun mom and pop operation called Monsanto. I asked if you could feel the love in your heart for them, with the article Don’t You Just Love Monsanto?, and then I gave you A Brief History of Monsanto.
One of the things that Monsanto is known for is their genetically engineered seeds, also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Critics call the crops that grow from these GMOs “Frankenfoods,” because of the fact that they are half-biologically real, and half-monster.
One of the main reasons Monsanto has created GMOs is to be able to sell the herbicide Roundup; the crops that sprout from genetically engineered seeds are called “Roundup Ready.”
Roundup is the herbicide for the new millennia. The crops are genetically modified to withstand being sprayed by Roundup, so what happens is Roundup kills all the weeds in the field, but the GMOs stay intact and grow unfettered.
Yippee!! Let’s have three cheers for Monsanto. Thanks to them farmers can feed the world!
Or so they think.
And in the fields of farmers, there are now superweeds – Roundup resistant weeds, with immunity to the herbicide.
Does that mean the next step is to have genetically modified weeds?
Horseweed, ragweed and pigweed are just a few of these superweeds. Pigweed can grow three inches a day and reach seven feet or more, choking out crops; it is so sturdy that it can damage harvesting equipment.
Because Monsanto has aggresively marketed their GMOs and Roundup herbicide as the second coming, farmers have sprayed so much Roundup that weeds have quickly evolved to survive it.
That has led Mike Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University to say, “What we’re talking about here is Darwinian evolution in fast-forward.”
(Brief aside here: a weed scientist? I didn’t know there was such a thing. I would have thought a weed scientist was someone who specialized in different aspects of hemp.)
Monsanto has things under control, so don’t worry. “It’s a serious issue, but it’s manageable,” said Rick Cole, who manages weed resistance issues in the United States for the company.
Of course, Monsanto stands to lose a lot of business if farmers use less Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds, so what can they be expected to say?
The truth is, a lot of farmers are pissed, and are feeling like they’ve been sold a bill of goods. They now have to use more herbicides, not less, which was the promise of Roundup and GMOs.
As Steve Doster, a corn and soybean farmer in Barnum, Iowa said, “You’re having to add another product with the Roundup to kill your weeds. So then why are we buying the Roundup Ready product?”
One of the promises of Monsanto and the biotechnology agricultural revolution was that GMOs and the use of Roundup was better for the environment.
But with the growth of superweeds, critics of genetically engineered crops say that the use of extra herbicides, which have to be used to deal with the new generation of “Frankenweeds,” include ones that are less environmentally tolerable and far more toxic than Roundup.
“The biotech industry is taking us into a more pesticide-dependent agriculture when they’ve always promised, and we need to be going in, the opposite direction,” said Bill Freese, a science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety in Washington.
Farm experts say the superweeds and the efforts to eradicate them could lead to higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs and more pollution of land and water.
“It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.
Georgia has been one of the states hit hardest by Roundup-resistant pigweed, and the superweed could pose as big a threat to cotton farming in the South as the beetle that devastated the industry in the early 20th century.
“If we don’t whip this thing, it’s going to be like the boll weevil did to cotton,” said Louie Perry, Jr. a cotton grower in Georgia who is also chairman of the Georgia Cotton Commission. “It will take it away.”
There’s a couple of videos on this page. At the top of the page is a rap song called “Monsanto,” from rap artist Roy Shivers. Listen carefully to the words – it tells the story.
Below are two videos. The first is “Everything You Have to Know About Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods,” with Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette.
The second video below is a Roundup commercial from Australian TV. Isn’t that Roundup character just so cute and lovable?