US farmers return to non-GMO seeds as glyphosate effectiveness diminishes

22 Aug 2015


Though in the US, the world of farming was still dominated by seeds that had been genetically altered to help them deal with drought, insects and weeds,  evidence suggests that more farmers were considering non-GMO seeds.

Several factors were at work, including the premium prices that non-GMO crops -- particularly soybeans could fetch at the market.

However, there was growing concern about the decreasing effectiveness of glyphosate, with weeds increasingly developing resistance to the herbicide that revolutionised modern farming.

According to farmers, Roundup was not cleaning up the fields the way it used to.

However, GMO seeds were in no danger of being pushed out of the market, with recent acreage surveys by the US Department of Agriculture showing they accounted for over 92 per cent of our corn and soybeans.

Also there were new seed-herbicide combinations -- using Dicamba and 2,4-D -- on the way to help farmers deal with the weakening powers of glyphosate.

"There's very little change for the country as a whole," said Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri, St Louis Post Dispatch reported.

Monsanto's large seed portfolio was dominated by GMOs, but it did produce a range of conventional corn, soybean and cotton seeds.

They represented a small percentage of the company's US sales, and there had been no spike in demand, according to a spokeswoman.

"Most farmers look to Monsanto for the innovation and trait packages we offer," spokeswoman Danielle Stuart said in an email.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, US regulators had gone by flawed and outdated research to allow expanded use of a herbicide linked to cancer, and new assessments need to be urgently conducted.

The  column pointed out there were two key factors that necessitated regulatory action to protect human health, a sharp increase in herbicide applied to widely planted genetically modified (GMO) crops used in food, and a recent World Health Organization (WHO) determination that the most commonly used herbicide, known as glyphosate, was probably carcinogenic to humans.

"There is growing evidence that glyphosate is geno-toxic and has adverse effects on cells in a number of different ways," Benbrook said.

"It's time to pull back ... on uses of glyphosate that we know are leading to significant human exposures while the science gets sorted out."

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