The first thing to understand about the growing “resistance” of some weeds to some herbicides, or some insects to some insecticides, is that this is actually natural. Yes, natural. Everyone learned about this in high school biology. It’s called evolution.
Resistance is an evolutionary response to external influences and results when, for example, farmers use enough of an herbicide to kill the weakest weeds but not the strongest. As evolution would have it, the strongest survive and propagate until they face a new barrier to their growth, natural or otherwise.
We know that all the anti-GM activists out there will hate this, but this means that resistance is unrelated to GMOs. Resistant weeds have developed for every major herbicide, not just Roundup, to which some crops have been engineered to be immune. For example, GM crops have never been produced for resistance to atrazine (another herbicide), yet some 64 weed species are now resistant to it.
The solution is not to abandon all herbicides and pesticides, as some suggest. This would condemn farmers’ crops to being crowded out by weeds and eaten alive by bugs. This New York Times story presents a balanced overview of the issue, and shows how popular herbicides such as Roundup remain useful tools in farmers’ tool boxes despite the development of resistance in some weed species in some places.
Most farmers understand resistance, and know how to manage it. Monsanto supports a holistic approach to weed management, including educational materials and training. And we do our darnedest to help farmers keep one step ahead of the weeds and bugs that jeopardize the success of their harvests.
[If you’ve heard any other stories about Monsanto that you suspect aren’t true, check out our other blog entries in this series or download our pocket-sized Myths & Facts leaflet, which is available in several languages.]