Dispatch: Revenge of the Superweeds

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Several species of weeds have developed resistance to the herbicide glyphosate (a.k.a. Roundup), threatening crop yields in sections of farmland across the country. According to the New York Times, “The National Research Council [NRC], which advises the federal government on scientific matters, sounded its own warning last month, saying that the emergence of resistant weeds jeopardized the substantial benefits that genetically engineered crops were providing to farmers and the environment.”

“Herbicide resistance is not a new problem, but it has become a very real problem with specific weeds in certain specific areas,” says Dr. Ross. “This issue will require some novel approaches as well as application of some older technologies to fight the next round in the ongoing battle between man and weed. It’s also important to note that NRC report did not suggest that weed resistance would make genetically modified crops obsolete. It just said that the problem is real and that it needs to be managed to preserve optimum benefits from the technology.”

“Activist groups are touting this report as an argument against biotechnology,” says Stier. “This story has something in common with the unscientific attacks on genetically modified alfalfa – now the subject of a Supreme Court case – and the attacks on the herbicide atrazine: rather than sound science, they all have their ‘roots’ in the same ideological campaign against the use of modern technology in agriculture.”