Monsanto recently announced a restructuring of their Roundup pesticide product line in an effort to overcome herbicide-resistant weeds that have built up a tolerance to the popular weed killer.
The increase in resistance is causing many southern farmers, mainly cotton farmers, to spend twice as much as they did a few years ago to kill weeds and protect their crops.
“If solid glyphosate-resistance management plans had been put in place three or four years ago, the worst of the problem could have been prevented,” said Charles Benbrook, chief scientist at The Organic Center.
In order for Roundup to be effective at killing weeds while not harming crops, farmers must use genetically modified “Roundup Ready” crops (made by Monsanto) that tolerate glyphosate, the chemical herbicide used in Roundup.
Much like the specially genetically engineered crops, unwanted weeds (at least ten species) are now also becoming “Roundup Ready,” causing Monsanto to look for new solutions to the weed control problem.
Patenting The Food Chain?
Some organizations claim that Monsanto’s creation of Roundup Ready, genetically engineered crops has allowed the biotech giant to put a patent on the food chain.
In fact, Monsanto has already received a patent in Europe in 2009 covering the complete chain of food production from seed to plant to food products produced from those plants such as meal and oil.
And in the U.S., Monsanto even has a pending patent application for meat derived from pigs that have been fed with Monsanto’s patented genetically engineered plants.
The U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general in several states are investigating whether these patents violate federal anti-trust statutes and amount to an abuse of power by Monsanto in locking out competitors and raising prices on seeds.
Minor Pests Becoming Major Problem
Pesticide resistant weeds and food patents are not the only potential negative effects of Monsanto’s products.
Another problem faced by cotton farmers who use Monsanto’s variety of GMO cotton, is from insect pests.
The bollworm is fairly major pest in China that is killed by a particular variety of GMO cotton.
The problem is that as bollworms have died, another pest, mirid bugs (not vulnerable to the GM cotton and once only a minor pest) have increased significantly. Since mirids are just as great of a threat to cotton crops as bollworms, Chinese farmers are now having to use even more pesticides on cotton crops to kill the mirid bugs.
Researchers at Monsanto are potentially contributing to this pest cycle by developing more GM crops that will kill both bollworms and mirid bugs, even though, as some scientists argue, it’s inevitable that yet another new pest will soon take their place.
Health blogger, Dr. Joseph Mercola writes that China’s GM-induced pest problems are likely “a drop in the bucket” compared to what the United States is in for, since the US has planted more GM crops than any other country.
What do you think about the patenting of GMO seeds and current pest control practices? Leave a comment and let us know.