News Stories

Superweeds Sprouting Up

Starlink corn was genetically engineered to remain alive while being sprayed with the pesticide Roundup, which kills the weeds but not the GM corn--but this isn't working as well as it used to, so Dow has created a NEW pesticide, based on the defoliant Agent Orange (NOTE: Subscribers can listen to this provocative interview), which was used during the Vietnam War. Of course the chemical company says this is safe, but farmers aren't so sure.

In BBC News, Matt McGrath quotes Nebraska farmer Van Leech as saying, "Roundup was the one that was supposed to do wonders. And it did for the first few years; anybody could raise clean beans. Obviously over the last few years, bean fields are beginning to look more and more like this," he says, pointing to a field where weeds tower over shrunken crops. Thousands of farmers across the US now face similar problems with weeds that can withstand powerful herbicides. Scientists say it is because of the success of GM crops that were introduced in the mid 1990s.

McGrath quotes agricultural researcher Dallas Peterson as saying, "If we utilize the technology too extensively and rely on it too exclusively, eventually we will develop resistance."

And that's exactly what has happened: now so-called "superweeds" are affecting up to 15 million acres of US crops. Soybean farmer like Jeremy Leech spent $7,500 last year on chemical sprays to fight weeks, but it wasn't much help. The herbicide failed to kill the giant ragweed that had grown on his land, and producing pollen that made his eight year-old daughter's asthma worse.

McGrath quotes Leech as saying, "To me, it's a short-term fix. I think (the new pesticide) will work fine, but what I'm afraid is what's going to happen 4-5 years down the road if we keep using it. I think we 'll have the same problems we have now with Roundup."

Ragweed is only one of the "dirty dozen" weeds that have acquired resistance to Roundup. These monster weeds have become so powerful that even spraying them with 24 times the recommended dose of Roundup won't kill them.

McGrath quotes agricultural researcher Stevan Knezevic as saying, "Over the past 15 years I said that if we continued using roundup, roundup roundup, we're going to have a problem--now we have that problem. The reason why we are here is that we all mismanaged this technology."

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