According to the New York Times, farmers are now struggling to cope with Roundup-Resistant weeds. Some excerpts:
On a recent afternoon here, Mr. Anderson watched as tractors crisscrossed a rolling field — plowing and mixing herbicides into the soil to kill weeds where soybeans will soon be planted.
Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds.
To fight them, Mr. Anderson and farmers throughout the East, Midwest and South are being forced to spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing.
“We’re back to where we were 20 years ago,” said Mr. Anderson, who will plow about one-third of his 3,000 acres of soybean fields this spring, more than he has in years. “We’re trying to find out what works.”
Farm experts say that such efforts could lead to higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs and more pollution of land and water.
“It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.
Resistant weeds are just the expected evolutionary consequence of the herbicides, highlighting once again the tenuous nature of US agricultural production. Of course, the agribusiness industry will look to “innovate” the solution in the form of a new pill or the next herbicide. Until that again fails.
The alternative, of course, is to go back to sustainable, earth-friendly, smaller-scale and less profitable growing techniques that integrate the farm to form a closed, no-waste system. Advocates of this system are not against innovation, but are concerned with what kind of “innovation” the system promotes. The level of technology should not be thought of as a neutral, linearly increasing pile of knowledge. There are different types of innovation and we should be able to discuss, as a society, which forms will make us best off and encourage those.