Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Here is another topic on which my reading has been single-sided: "superweeds", i.e. plants that have evolved a resistance to herbicides; or, more particularly, a resistance to the herbicide glyphosate.

Some of the more extreme commentary from environmentalists on the subject had me wondering if they understood how evolution works. So a weed might become glyphosate-resistant. How would that be different from a weed that adapts to any other weed-control method, up to and including organic methods of weed control, such as the flooding of rice fields? Farming is not a static thing. The creation of any technology that works well in the fields now is not going to be the best solution forevermore, because farming deals with evolving organisms.

Here's Monsanto's take on the subject. They aptly compare the use of glyphosate on weeds to the use of antibiotics on bacteria. Nobody who understands the antibiotic/bacteria balance thinks that our current available antibiotics will always get the job done. In order to make the longest possible use of antibiotics before the bacteria adapt, we need to use them carefully, neither too much, nor too little - and Monsanto knows that their herbicides must be used with the same care for the same reasons.

(Update) This appears to be one of the articles on superweeds that spawned Monsanto's blog post. I have to say, I'm not impressed with the NYT's reporting on this one. "We're back to where we were 20 years ago" says the farmer who was quoted. Would he prefer to have kept things at the status quo for those twenty years?

Ironically, this article makes the same comparison to antibiotics, only if they are out to paint Monsanto as they bad guy, they have hurt their point by making the comparison.

They really answered their own question in the article: ". . .farmers sprayed so much Roundup that weeds quickly evolved to survive it."

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