Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Growing pains . . .

THE NEW YORK TIMES has a report, "Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds", by William Neuman and Andrew Pollack, that details the emergence of "superweeds", weeds that are resistant to Roundup weed-killer. This could affect the price of food in the years to come. A lot of farmers use the Monsanto product, along with Monsanto genetically-altered crops that are resistant to Roundup.

That threatens to reverse one of the agricultural advances bolstered by the Roundup revolution: minimum-till farming. By combining Roundup and Roundup Ready crops, farmers did not have to plow under the weeds to control them. That reduced erosion, the runoff of chemicals into waterways and the use of fuel for tractors.

If frequent plowing becomes necessary again, “that is certainly a major concern for our environment,” Ken Smith, a weed scientist at the University of Arkansas, said. In addition, some critics of genetically engineered crops say that the use of extra herbicides, including some old ones that are less environmentally tolerable than Roundup, belies the claims made by the biotechnology industry that its crops would be better for the environment.

“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.

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