Weed Resistance to Herbicides May Undermine Benefits of GM Crops


U.S. farmers who have switched to genetically engineered crops have made increased profits and reduced short-term damage to the environment, but reliance on weedkillers associated with the new crops could undermine the environmental benefits, according to a new study.

More than 80 percent of the soy, corn, and cotton grown in the U.S. is now genetically engineered to resist pests or the popular herbicide, Roundup, according to the report by the National Academy of Sciences.

But nine species of weeds have evolved resistance to glyphosate, a main component of Roundup.

Increased resistance may force farmers to use more toxic herbicides or engage in plowing practices that cause soil damage.

“We’ve got a significant weed-resistance problem,” said David Ervin, lead author of the report and professor of environmental management and economics at Portland State University. “That’s an issue that’s not going to go away. And it has to be dealt with, as it could jeopardize the usefulness of the technology down the road.”

The report suggests that farmers must adopt more diverse management practices, including a rotation of herbicides and improved mechanical weed-control practices.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

photo: cwalker 71

About Author

Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

1 Comment

  1. Weeds don’t evolve nearly as fast as bacteria though this kinda seems like an inevitability… Then again I’ve been doing my best to avoid eating GM foods for years since there are NO long term impact studies upon health from combining salmon and corn…

    Thank you for sharing this