Monsanto’s new herbicide-resistant GM crops threaten American vegetable farmers
by L.J. Devon
Many American corn and soybean farmers embrace genetically modified seeds and herbicide chemicals. This biotechnology invention helps them produce higher crop yields without having to worry about weeds. Today’s farmers can just apply, en masse, chemicals like glyphosate, which knock out the weeds, allowing the hybrid corn and soybeans to thrive. While this science seems to increase certain food production, it is actually limiting vegetable farmers.
“You have a lot of crops that are sensitive to these herbicides,” USA Today reported Neil Rhodes, director of the herbicide stewardship program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, saying. “With vegetable farmers facing the prospect of a much larger area being sprayed with them in coming years, ‘I’m not surprised they’re concerned.'”
Drift and evaporation causing herbicides to spread to vegetable fields, causing deformities, damaging yields
While 93% of all soybeans and 85% of all feed corn grown in the USA is genetically modified to be glyphosate-resistant, herbs and vegetables are damaged in the process. Sometimes the damage to vegetables can be seen up to 100 miles away from an herbicide-laced field. This damage is caused by drift, which is when pesticides sprayed in one field evaporate or travel by wind into neighboring fields that may contain susceptible broad-leaved vegetable crops. Those farmers who are most affected live in the Midwest and include those who grow potatoes, tomatoes, squash, beans and peas.
“The herbicides are applied to fields as a liquid, from rigs pulled by tractors,” said Franklin Egan, a research ecologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. “The vast majority falls straight to the ground but a small fraction can move as water droplets carried by the wind. An even smaller fraction can evaporate and move as a gas.”
A case in 2012 out of California showed how herbicide sprayed in the San Joaquin Valley could damage cotton fields 100 miles away. Drift has prompted vegetable farmers to take action against Monsanto and Dow.
Dow to reformulate herbicide while Monsanto hesitates
Representatives from the Save Our Crops group have come together to convince the biotech firms to reformulate their new herbicides, which are projected to become the new chemical standards for agriculture in 2015 and beyond. A member of the group, Jody Herr from Lowell, IN, said his tomatoes were turning out strange when confronted by drifting herbicide. “The leaves were curled, the branches were twisted and misshapen,” he said. “The fruit they set was deformed.”
Steve Smith, chairman of the Save Our Crops group reported that Dow is on board to make important changes to their herbicide, but Monsanto continues to hesitate. Dow reformulated 2,4-D to make it less prone to vaporize and drift, while also rewriting the label to restrict farmers from using it when the wind is blowing toward a sensitive crop. The other herbicide up for change is Monsanto’s dicamba, which has been around for more than 40 years. Both biotech juggernauts are waiting through a regulatory process. Dow’s new Enlist corn and GM soybean seed is designed to be resistant to herbicide 2,4-D. Monsanto awaits approval for Roundup Ready 2 Extend corn and soy, which is resistant to dicamba.
The new herbicides are designed to mimic a naturally occurring plant growth hormone. “The plant literally grows itself to death,” said Egan.
A tragic trajectory, regardless
Whether they change or not, the new herbicides will be manufactured in increased volumes across American agriculture, creating an ever so intrusive and abusive chemical state, inflicted haplessly upon the environment. Welcoming new versions of Roundup will perpetuate farmers’ notion to take surrounding plant life for granted, as biodiversity is disregarded in agriculture — traded away for limited and controlled food variety. These chemical increases will expand GMO dominance while prairies, wildflowers and medicinal herbs are wiped out at all costs.
Superweeds – a growing consequence of overused herbicides
On top of that, overuse of glyphosate and related herbicides has led to the rise of chemical-resistant superweeds, which cannot be stopped no matter how much chemical is poured into the soil. Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest admits this, saying, “overuse and misuse by farmers and the biotech industry has led to the development of glyphosate-resistant weeds.”
In the fight against nature, which is a lost and dangerous science, biotech firms have been working overtime to develop new herbicides that are much stronger than the newly emerging superweeds. It’s only a matter of time before the superweeds outsmart the scientists again as they adapt to their harsh chemical environment.
The silent chemical warfare is only beginning, as the hybridization of seed and food advances forward. The thrashing of the natural Earth continues. Will you be a part of agricultural restoration or will you continue to buy into the chemical warfare hashed out onto the environment, food and human life?
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