In the News: Herbicide-Resistant Weeds

In early May, we posted a story about herbicide-resistant weeds on the TGC blog. Concern has continued to grow throughout the scientific community, and the Associated Press recently published an article on Roundup-resistant species.

Introduced in the 1970s, Roundup has long been a staple tool of pest management for American farmers. Though Roundup is a chemical herbicide, it was widely considered less toxic than its predecessors. It also allowed farmers to reduce tilling, a significant step toward curbing erosion and fuel consumption. As many as ten plant species have evolved to survive Roundup application, however, and many are concerned that farmers will turn back to less eco-friendly methods of weed management.

Monsanto, the agricultural company that developed Roundup, also introduced Roundup-resistant seeds. The seeds allowed farmers to spray without threatening young crops, and they now account for the vast majority of American soybeans, cotton, and corn. Because Monsanto’s products were initially so successful, farmers were able to reduce annual herbicide application by 57 million pounds in 11 years.

The article also cites David Mortensen, a weed scientist at Penn State University who believes more dangerous pesticides could soon rise to prominence. Dicamba and 2,4-D are likely to fill the void, Mortensen said, and both are known to drift beyond the site of application.

Bill Freese, a chemist with the Center for Food Safety, is quoted as saying that America faces “a pesticide treadmill.” The more farmers rely on a single herbicide formula, the greater the likelihood that weeds will evolve to meet the challenge.

Click here to read the full article in USA Today.

Click here to read our original blog post on the topic, dated May 4, 2010.

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