Pesticide-Resistant Weeds Plague U.S. Farms – Is Canada Next?
Those who have been sounding the alarm about the risks of growing more and more genetically-modified, pesticide-resistant crops in Canada and the U.S. appear to have been vindicated:
… In late 2004, “superweeds” that resisted Monsanto’s iconic “Roundup” herbicide, popped up in GM crops in the county of Macon, Georgia. Monsanto, the US multinational biotech corporation, is the world’s leading producer of Roundup, as well as genetically engineered seeds. Company figures show that nine out of 10 US farmers produce Roundup Ready seeds for their soybean crops.
Superweeds have since alarmingly appeared in other parts of Georgia, as well as South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, according to media reports. Roundup contains the active ingredient glyphosate, which is the most used herbicide in the USA.
According to the article, some farmers have resorted hand-weeding, some have gone back to conventional, non-GM varieties – and some have abandoned their fields altogether. 100,000 acres in Georgia are now infested, and some 10,000 acres have been abandoned in Macon County alone.
A related problem has arisen in India, where farmers were convinced of the benefits of planting Monsanto’s weevil-resistant Bt cotton, only to discover that the plants were even more vulnerable to drought and to other insect infestations than conventional varieties. Many believe that crop failures coupled with crippling debt from having to purchase the expensive GM seed every year have led to a rash of farmer suicides.
Of all the nightmare scenarios surrounding the use of GM crops, the rise of resistant pests and ‘superweeds’ has always been among the most plausible and the most terrifying – especially given the increasing pervasiveness such crops. While Canadian farmers are still catching up with the U.S., herbicide resistant GM crops currently account for 65% of both our soy and corn crops and a stunning 90-95% of our Canola. Wheat has so far escaped being replaced by GM varieties, largely due to resistance from the Wheat Board and concerns about marketing our wheat to the EU, where GM foods are much more difficult to sell.
I got to fly out west for the first time last summer, and I remember being delighted by the sight of thousands of acres of bright gold Canola checkerboarded among the more familiar wheat fields all across Saskatchewan. The thought of those fields being overrun by superweeds fills me with dread.