Monsanto introduced the world to the weedkiller Roundup in the 1970's. It uses an chemical called glyphosate to kill plants. It was revolutionary and killed any plants that it was sprayed on. Not so today. Why?
Monsanto has genetically engineered commercial plants to be resistant to Roundup. A gene from a plant that couldn't be killed with Roundup was 'stitched' into the DNA of the target plant. These altered plants are referred to as Roundup Ready. There are currently 250 million acres world wide planted in these genetically altered plants (GMOs). Another innovation by Monsanto is the insertion of a bacteria gene(Bt) into plants that kills caterpillars, and monarch butterflies.
In North America GMO Roundup Ready seeds available are:
- sweet corn
- creeping bent-grass(golf course grass)
Some Seeds are now "stacked" meaning they carry both Roundup resistance and the Bt gene, referred to as HT and BT.
Many more seeds are being altered and are waiting approval to sell.
Why do some farmers opt to plant GMOs when the seeds are expensive and must be repurchased from Monsanto every year? Because the farmer can spray the crops with weed killer and avoid having to till the land. This cuts down on labour and fuel costs.
Since 1998 the farmers using Roundup Ready seeds have been forced to use ever increasing doses of the weed killer Roundup as succeeding waves of Roundup resistant weeds have been infesting their fields. These Roundup resistant weeds can be killed with Roundup, but only at higher and more frequent dosing.
- Palmer Amaranth 2005
- Common Waterhemp 2006
- Giant Ragweed 2004
- Common Ragweed 2004
- Hairy Fleabane 2007
- Horseweed 2001
- Italian Ryegrass 2004
- Rigid Ryegrass 1998
Of course these superweeds don't confine their growth to the Roundup Ready fields. They spread with the wind, creating problems for those farmers who use sustainable methods.
Another concern to those who eat the glyphosate dosed food crops is whether traces of this poison continue in the food chain.Consumers' need to arm themselves with knowledge about industrial giants like Monsanto before venturing into the modern grocery store.