Friday, April 24, 2009

We spoke off and on about GMOs and the Green Revolution during class. Recently, I came across a new news article speaking about the latest problems plaguing Monsanto's roundup ready crops. It seems that many of the possible negatives we spoke about in class are occurring right now. The article describes an explosion in pests resistant to Monsanto's leading herbicide, Roundup. This poses a clear problem to both the environment and the crops grown by farmers using Monsanto's specialized products. The increase of these weeds is severely damaging the livelihood of many farmers, especially those who have relied too heavily on Monsanto's Roundup-Ready products. As with pesticides, the use of herbicides can lead to a treadmill effect, with users applying a larger and larger amount of the chemical in order to compete with constantly evolving organisms.
The problem is now far reaching and serious. Over 100,000 acres covering space in 29 counties in Georgia have the virulent pigweed, which grows fast and chokes down crops like cotton. Farmers are aggressively attempting to combat the pest, but the plant can easily produce 10,000 seeds at a time, so many more plants can crop up. Some farmers have taken to hand-weeding their crops in order to fight off the plant as other herbicides are not useful once Roundup is ineffective because of the risk of destroying the main crop. The difficulty faced by farmers in combating the pigweed led farmers to abandon 10,000 acres in Macon County.
Monsanto, of course, downplays the problem of the new weeds, suggesting farmers try alternate crops and different herbicides. One herbicide suggested is actually a component of Agent Orange. Agent Orange is the widely used herbicide of the Vietnam War, famous for its devastating effects on veterans who suffer to this day from increased risk of cancer and other serious complications. Somehow, it strikes me as somewhat unreasonable for Monsanto to suggest combating a problem caused by excessive chemical use by suggesting that farmer's use more amounts of even more toxic chemicals.
In another article from Forbes, I read that Monsanto is trying to sue Germany to force them to allow their GMO corn. In light of the evidence presented about the super weeds in Georgia, I can see why Germany would want to forbid the GMO crop from entering their country. The use of herbicides it would seem also contributes to the deskilling of labor mentioned in class. The farmers now rely so heavily on herbicides that they have been used to the point of actually creating the super weeds that are now choking crops.
In light of this, I feel Monsanto's products are contributing to a greater problem of unsustainable, ecologically unsound agriculture. At most, I think they can serve as a stopgap as we investigate more efficient and less risky methods of farming.

http://www.france24.com/en/20090418-superweed-explosion-threatens-monsanto-heartlands-genetically-modified-US-crops
http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2009/04/22/ap6321612.html

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