(Beyond Pesticides, August 10, 2007) As the face of agriculture in America changes with rising prevalence of herbicide-tolerant crops, farmers in Mississippi and Arkansas are also facing challenges caused by increased herbicide resistance. A recent press release by the Delta Research and Extension Center (DREC) blames glyphosate-resistant weeds for increased costs in Mississippi, while a leading British researcher will work with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service to determine the impact that the same weeds will have on farming in Arkansas.
According to DREC’s release, a “concern for agricultural production in the Mississippi Delta is the increase of weeds resistant to the herbicide glyphosate . . . DREC rice weed scientist Jason Bond said that both glyphosate-resistant horseweed and volunteer Roundup Ready soybeans have become problem weeds for Mississippi rice production.” Research associate Tom Eubank also said, “Glyphosate-resistant horseweed, ryegrass and pigweed are concerns in Mississippi Delta soybeans.”
Meanwhile, Arkansas farmers are noticing a similar trend: the increased use of glyphosate on Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” crops is leading them to map the future of herbicide-resistant weeds and consider alternative weed management programs. According to the High Plains/Midwest Agricultural Journal, “researchers believe that if pigweed, or Plamer amaranth, can’t be controlled by glyphosate, it will add major costs to farming and drastically change the way the land is farmed.” Dr. Paul Neve, Ph.D., of England’s Warwick University, is coming to Arkansas to determine the extent of the need for change.
Herbicide-resistant weeds have ballooned in recent years, due particularly to the expansion of Roundup Ready crops, like soybeans and alfalfa. According to Syngenta manager Les Glasgow, “[I]f you go back, say 10 years, and look at glyphosate resistance, you probably wouldn’t see it. At that time, conventional wisdom said the frequency of mutation was extremely low. What wasn’t taken into account was how extensive and intensive the use of one mode of action would be.” Dr. Neve agreed on the cause of resistance. “Having seen the amount of seed production here, it’s obviously a problem. If you were writing a recipe for glyphosate resistance, the ingredients are already in place here,” he said. Chuck Foresman, head of Syngenta’s weed resistance strategies, points to a potentially greater problem. “Stacked resistance weeds are developing in the landscape,” he said. “That makes weed scientists’ jobs tough. Someone describes a problem. How do you offer a remedy? It’s hard to know if a stacked weed is out there.”
Weed resistance is only one of many reasons why genetically modified crops and reliance on herbicides is dangerous to both health and agriculture. Pesticide residues, misleading labeling, and complete testing prior to planting should also be considered. To view Beyond Pesticides’ page on genetic engineering, click here. Buying organic food whenever possible and supporting local agriculture is another way to ensure that you protect both your health and the environment. For more information on organics, including related publications, click here.