GMO crops, weeds and glyphosate

To most of us, the following might not seem important, but it’s a Very Big Deal indeed.

Glyphosate is an important agricultural chemical – it’s a broad spectrum herbicide. As far as synthetic herbicides go, it’s great stuff if handled correctly and sparingly.

Given its effectiveness, farmers used to have to be very careful in how it was applied, otherwise it would kill not only the weed, but also the crop.

Enter the world of GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms). The Big Agriculture boffins came up with a way to make a crop resistant to glyphosate. They “invent” these species and therefore own the patent to them. It’s huge business as it makes farmers reliant on a single source for seed *and* the chemicals needed to successfully grow a crop.

The other problem is glyphosate resistant crops allowed for more liberal spraying of the herbicide, meaning farmers could get sloppy and at times were actively encouraged to be too generous in its application for obvious reasons – more cash for the makers of the herbicide.

As we have already learned, abuse and over-use of anti-bacterial soaps, sprays and even antibiotics can lead to resistance and tolerance in the species you are trying to kill…and that now seems to be occurring with glyphosate.

According to this article, Palmer amaranth, a notorious weed in the cotton fields of the USA, has been found capable of resisting the effects of glyphosate through “gene amplification”. Glyphosate acts by inhibiting a plant enzyme called EPSPS and the Palmer amaranth studied appears to now be amping up it’s production of EPSPS to overcome the glyphosate’s effects.

According to Professor Stephen Powles who was investigating the phenomenon:

“Glyphosate resistance evolution is a major adverse development because glyphosate is a one in a 100-year discovery that is as important for reliable global food production as penicillin is for battling disease.”

Man created a mutant to beat nature instead of trying harder to work with it – nature has responded with its own mutant. A subtle hint perhaps? How powerful will the next generation of herbicides become? How nasty will nature’s response be?

GMO + herbicides vs. nature? I’ll put my money on nature winning in the long run, but it will be a bloody battle with many casualties.

Another good reason to get that back yard veggie patch started using heritage and heirloom seeds seeds!


GMO vs selective breeding
Companion planting
Heritage and heirloom seeds
Earth friendly weed killers
Organic food labeling – what it means