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Monsanto's "Superweeds" Gallop Through Midwest

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Back in the mid-'90s, Monsanto rolled out seeds genetically engineered to withstand its Roundup herbicide. To ensure huge growth potential, the company shrewdly chose the most widely planted, highly subsidized US crops to grace with its new "Roundup Ready" technology: corn, soy, and cotton.

The pitch was simple and powerful: No longer would large-scale farmers need to worry about weeds. All they would have to do was douse their fields with Roundup, which would wipe out all plant life except the desired crop. Farmers leapt at the technology. It represented a fantastic labor-saving opportunity, allowing them to manage ever-larger swaths of land without having to pay more workers.

Today, Roundup Ready crops blanket US farmland. According to USDA figures, 94 percent of soybeans and more than 70 percent of corn and cotton planted in the US contain the Roundup-resistant gene. Back-of-the envelope calculations tell me that nearly 200,000 square miles of prime farmland-a land mass about two-thirds the size of Texas-now grow crops rigged to flourish amid an annual monsoon of Roundup.

Well, in what is surely the least surprising, most-anticipated major development in the history of US agriculture, farmers are discovering that when you spend years dousing land a single herbicide, ecosystems adapt. Roundup Ready crops, meet Roundup-defying weeds.