Thursday, May 20, 2010


The euphoria about the advantages of GM crops over traditional ones seems to be misplaced considering the latest problem encountered by cultivators of GM soybean and other crops in the US. Though GM crops are resistant to many insects and pests with high destruction potential, their susceptibility to a number of weeds that can reduce the yield led the widespread use of glyphosate to tackle the weed menace. Recent reports that many of such dreaded weeds are making a come back, after developing resistance to glyphosate is alarming with far reaching implications. In a country like the US where large tracts of land are under cultivation of GM crops the consequences can be mind boggling.

"The first resistant species to pose a serious threat to agriculture was spotted in a Delaware soybean field in 2000. Since then, the problem has spread, with 10 resistant species in at least 22 states infesting millions of acres, predominantly soybeans, cotton and corn. The superweeds could temper American agriculture's enthusiasm for some genetically modified crops. Soybeans, corn and cotton that are engineered to survive spraying with Roundup have become standard in American fields. However, if Roundup doesn't kill the weeds, farmers have little incentive to spend the extra money for the special seeds. Roundup — originally made by Monsanto but now also sold by others under the generic name glyphosate — has been little short of a miracle chemical for farmers. It kills a broad spectrum of weeds, is easy and safe to work with, and breaks down quickly, reducing its environmental impact. Sales took off in the late 1990s, after Monsanto created its brand of Roundup Ready crops that were genetically modified to tolerate the chemical, allowing farmers to spray their fields to kill the weeds while leaving the crop unharmed. Today, Roundup Ready crops account for about 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States".

Monsanto company which created these crop variants had hoped that the genetic modification they brought about could impart permanent trait to resist any ill- effect of glyphosate on the crop, may have to rework on its strategy immediately to prevent large scale shunning of their seeds by the farmers. Those who propound and espouse the cause of GM food crops must wake up to the reality that Nature has its own way of correcting man-made distortions like this and an introspection is the need of the hour.


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