Daily News Archive
From May 8, 2001

Weeds Showing Roundup Resistance in Roundup Ready Soy Fields

Despite Monsanto's claims that their bioengineered Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans would decrease farmers' need for herbicides, farmers are applying more toxic chemicals than ever to combat weeds in their soy fields due to the development of herbicide resistance to Roundup by weeds.

RR crops are, according to Monsanto, supposed to decrease pesticide use by allowing farmers to spray a single broad spectrum herbicide, active ingredient glyphosate, over their growing crops, killing weeds but leaving the soy plants unharmed. But Dr. Charles Benbrook of the Northwest Science and Environmental Policy Center in Sandpoint, Idaho has found the exact opposite result. His report, "Troubled Times Amid Commercial Success for Roundup Ready Soybeans," which relies on previously unreleased data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, indicates that, on average, 11.4 percent more herbicides are used on Monsanto's RR crops than on conventional soybeans, with as much as 30 percent more used in some cases.

Monsanto representative Bryan Hurley countered that American farmers have planted 60 percent of this year's soybean crop with RR seeds, and they would not select these seeds if it were not to their advantage.

According to Dr. Benbrook, farmers eagerly adopted RR soybean technology because it is cheaper than conventional farm methods and simplifies weed management, but it is becoming costly in many other ways. He writes, "Intense herbicide price competition, triggered by commercial success of RR soybeans, has reduced the average cost per acre treated with most of today's popular herbicides by close to 50 percent since the introduction of RR soybeans. In response, farmers are applying more active ingredients at generally higher rates. But heightened reliance on herbicides, especially Roundup, has accelerated the shift in weed species in ways that are undermining the efficacy of Roundup and requiring farmers to add new products to their control programs. These trends increase the risk of resistance and will ultimately lead to less reliable and more costly systems."

Dr. Benbrook's full report is available online at: www.biotech-info.net/troubledtimes.html