News and Editorials

Escalating the weed wars

When crops were first introduced that had been engineered to withstand the herbicide glyphosate
— better known by the trade name Roundup — the agricultural industry said it would confer a
terrific environmental advantage. Glyphosate is a relatively benign herbicide, after all, and the
industry claimed it would be able to use less of it to get rid of weeds, without harming the corn or soy.

Just as the nation must stop overusing antibiotics if it hopes to slow the emergence of resistant infections, it must do the same with herbicides and genetically modified crops. –

At first, farmers did spray less glyphosate. But resistant versions of the weeds soon cropped up.
That meant heavier, repeated spraying, which in turn meant more resistant weeds.

No problem, agribusiness said. We’ll just make new crops genetically engineered to resist other herbicides.

But that’s not a solution. Just as the nation must stop overusing antibiotics if it hopes to slow the
emergence of resistant infections, it must do the same with herbicides and genetically
modified crops. The way to deal with so-called superweeds isn’t by escalating the arms
race against them.

A new generation of herbicide-resistant crops is wending its way through the federal approval
process. A division of Dow Chemical recently won the approval of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture for corn and soy that have been bioengineered to withstand spraying with both
glyphosate and 2,4-D, a more toxic weed-killer that some critics say is dangerous to the
environment and to people. Why both? About 18 weeds have developed resistance to 2,4-D
over the more than 50 years it has been in use. So the idea is to use both herbicides, with
each one eradicating the weeds that the other one can’t.

But first, the Environmental Protection Agency would have to approve the special blending
of the two herbicides developed by Dow. Called Enlist Duo, the mix has been formulated
not to drift over large areas as 2,4-D commonly does. It would thus reduce the risk of killing
crops miles away. According to USDA estimates, the introduction of the new crops would
mean the spraying of five to 13 times as much 2,4-D by the year 2020.

Meanwhile, Monsanto, the developer of Roundup Ready corn, is developing its own new
generation of herbicide-resistant crops able to withstand a third weed killer.

The USDA considers only whether the genetically engineered seeds represent a hazard
to other crops; the EPA is responsible for overseeing the safety of herbicides used in
agriculture. No agency looks at the bigger policy question of whether the nation is
embarking on a potentially dangerous path toward creating ever-more-resistant weeds
and spraying them and crops with larger and larger doses of stronger herbicides.
That question should be answered before the country escalates the war out in the fields.

Vote YES on Maui Citizen's GMO Moratorium
Vote YES on Maui Citizen’s GMO Initiative

Vote YES on the GMO Moratorium

We are simply asking to suspend GMO and Pesticide Experiments
and Genetically Engineered Seed Production until Environmental
and Public Heath Impact Studies show there
is no harm being done to our Keiki and the ‘Aina.

GMO seed production in Maui County spray over 80 different
chemicals and no one, not even the Environmental Protection Agency
knows what happens when these chemicals combine in the environment or in your body.

These chemicals are sprayed in GMO fields and spread into our
neighborhoods, ocean reefs, drinking water, food supply and our bodies.

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