QI read NY Times articles about a super pigweed growing in response to Roundup Ready cotton. As a result, according to the article, Monsanto was actually purchasing more toxic herbicides for the affected farmers. So the purpose of Roundup Ready (to limit

I read NY Times articles about a super pigweed growing in response to Roundup Ready cotton. As a result, according to the article, Monsanto was actually purchasing more toxic herbicides for the affected farmers. So the purpose of Roundup Ready (to limit the use of highly toxic herbicides) was defeated by the expected adjustments of natural selection. Aren't we playing with fire by introducing unpredictable changes to the environment?

AExpert Answer

Your question is a good one, and I can see the reason you would be concerned.  Let me share a few facts that are not forthcoming from many of the articles and blogs written on this topic.  Hopefully, you will see that the core issue is less about reasons for or against Roundup Ready crops and is more about using technologies to promote a more sustainable agricultural production system.


Over the past several decades, farmers and agricultural scientists have come to the following conclusions regarding weed management:


  • Resistance is common to most herbicides and is not just an issue with glyphosate. The emergence of resistance relates to how an herbicide is used in a weed-management system. Additionally, herbicides do not cause resistance but rather select for individual plants in a population that contain a gene that is naturally resistant to the herbicide; consequently, the plant is not killed by the herbicide.
  • The way to manage resistance to herbicides and any pesticide or pest-control practice (even those that are not related to chemicals) is to use two or more control methods with overlapping activity. In some cases this means using more than one herbicide that targets the same weed. So, in the case of the so-called super pigweed in Roundup Ready cotton, populations resistant to glyphosate did evolve due to the exclusive/sole use of glyphosate by farmers to control this weed over many years. When a farmer is dealing with glyphosate-resistant weeds in a field, academic and industry experts recommend using other herbicides and, in some cases, to combine use of different herbicides with nonchemical weed control options. In fact, academics strongly recommend that farmers who are not dealing with resistant populations to proactively use these same basic techniques to prevent establishment of resistant populations in the first place.
  • If farmers elect not to use multiple herbicides to manage weed resistance, they will have to use more mechanical tillage and/or hand hoeing, which have environmental consequences. For example, increased mechanical tillage can increase soil and nutrient runoff and may increase pollution of our rivers and lakes.
  • Lastly, all herbicides recommended by university, government and private-sector scientists have been  approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. U.S. regulation  of pesticides provides assurance that approved products can be used safely. 
  • There are distinct environmental advantages of using herbicides for reducing tillage, lowering greenhouse gases and reducing run-off, as well as improving agricultural production and management efficiency. We will truly be playing with fire if we do not continue to use the best science to address herbicide resistance, because fewer new herbicides and loss of herbicide effectiveness due to resistance will ultimately threaten food security and the environment. 
Posted on July 28, 2017
Hummingbird feeders often contain a sugar solution that is similar to plant nectar. Therefore, bees are attracted to these Hummingbird feeders, because similar to hummingbirds, the sugar/nectar attracts them. There are some hummingbird feeders on the market that are designed to prevent bees, ants, and other insects from getting in.   Bee decline is complex and often misunderstood by the public. Chris Sansone, Global Regulatory Affairs Manager of Insect Resistance Management (... Read More
Posted on August 15, 2017
GMO crops are not "banned" in any countries around the world in the normal sense of that word. Usually when something is banned for consumption, etc., it is because some problem emerged that needed a response. The history of regulation for biotech crops is quite different in that there were regulatory approval processes developed long before any such crops were commercialized. The goal was to try to anticipate any potential health or environmental issues and to make... Read More
Posted on February 9, 2017
A species is defined by the ability to reproduce viable offspring, so any two plants within a species generally have the potential to cross pollinate. Like any good successful mating, it requires the union of male and female contributions at the right time, same place. So absolutely, GE crops have the potential to cross with non-GE crops of the same species—if they manage to get it on through time and space.    So the rules that apply to dogs and teenagers also apply to... Read More

Explore More Topics