What is in this article?:
- Farmers playing chess with nature in resistant weed fight
- Superweed propaganda
- Farmers are playing chess with nature. Nobody predicted that glyphosate-resistant crops represented a lasting victory over weeds — superweeds are not so super.
Scientists in the last few years have developed a new form of crop through genetic modification. It possesses the ability to resist a safe herbicide called glyphosate. This development has allowed farmers to spray glyphosate, killing weeds but not the crops they’re trying to grow.
Suddenly we were able to raise more crops on less land. Glyphosate was so good that we even decreased our herbicide use.
(See here for pigweed photos.)
Within a few years, these GM crops became a conventional part of agriculture. Today, the vast majority of the corn, soybeans, and cotton in the United States are immune to glyphosate. Farmers embraced these crops because they made so much sense, for both economic and environmental reasons.
Yet nature isn’t static. It changes all the time, and so some weed species have begun to build a resistance to glyphosate and other herbicides. These are the “superweeds” the anti-technology activists are warning us about.
Except that there’s nothing “super” about them. They are ordinary weeds and their emergence was expected. Nobody predicted that glyphosate-resistant crops represented a lasting victory over weeds–at least not anybody who understands how nature works.
The people who complain the loudest about these weeds tend not to be the farmers who have to confront them in the fields. I would appreciate their concern if I didn’t also know that they aren’t really worried about my ability to produce nutritious and affordable food. Instead, they’re using propagandistic words and phrases to frighten the public and push a personal ideological agenda in opposition to crop biotechnology.
Their real goal is to enact public policies that will make farming harder, drive up grocery-store prices for consumers, and deny everyone an important tool of land conservation.
If they succeed, “superweeds” will be only one of our problems.
Meanwhile, those of us who work the land rather than play politics must now return to the familiar challenge of coming up with new ways to fight an old battle. And we’ll succeed, as long as we can rely on the twin powers of scientific technology and human ingenuity. That is what farmers do.
John Reifsteck is a corn and soybean producer in Champaign County Illinois. He volunteers as a Board Member for Truth About Trade & Technology.
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