Resistant super weeds in the USA

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Rapid spread of herbicide-resistant weeds in the United States

In the United States, the spread of weeds that are resistant to herbicides has increased significantly. According to the US market research institute Stratus Agri-Marketing, farmers are literally facing a growing problem. You have to remove the resistant weeds partially by hand. Genetically modified plants, which in turn are resistant to the herbicides, are increasingly losing their originally hoped-for benefits. If the weeds can no longer be destroyed with the herbicides, the farmers can save their use immediately and therefore do not need any crops that are resistant to the herbicides.

According to Stratus Agri-Marketing, weeds that are resistant to herbicides have spread massively in the past year. The area covered by the "super weeds" increased by 51 percent in 2012. Almost half (49 percent) of the 3,000 farmers surveyed reported problems, while in 2011 the proportion of farmers affected was still 34 percent. The super weeds are particularly common in the south. In Georgia, for example, 92 percent of farmers had to fight resistant weeds. In total, according to a statement by Stratus Agri-Marketing, more than 24 million hectares of arable land were covered with weeds in 2012 that were resistant to at least one herbicide. In 2011, this affected 16 million hectares. In addition, two or more resistant super weeds can already be detected in 27 percent of the farms, while only 12 percent of the farms were affected two years ago.

Genetic engineering plants without benefit According to current knowledge, the large-scale cultivation of genetic engineering plants in monocultures in the USA has been increasingly losing its economic benefits hoped for by its supporters. The specially developed genetic engineering plants remain resistant to the pesticides, so that the latter can be used generously without endangering the harvest. But weeds are also increasingly resisting herbicides. As a result, farmers are no longer able to harvest part of their crops and face significant increases in the cost of eliminating the resistant weeds.

Pesticide use increased significantly Studies indicate that farmers have significantly increased the use of herbicides since the introduction of resistant genetic engineering plants. So far, however, it is unclear whether there is a connection with the increasing spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. However, the increase in pesticide use has been documented since the introduction of genetic engineering plants. A study by Washington State University published in the journal "Environmental Sciences Europe" at the end of September showed that the consumption of pesticides in the USA has increased by seven percent since the first cultivation of genetically modified plants. Ultimately, the cultivation of herbicide-resistant crops that can resist the use of chemicals such as Roundup (glyphosate) from the Monsanto group led to an increase in spray consumption by 239 million kilograms between 1996 and 2011, the US researchers reported.

Health risk due to increasing pesticide use The scientists also fear a further increase in pesticide use, since the super weeds - in line with the previous logic - are being used with even more toxic older agents. The companies are also already in the process of developing genetic engineering plants that are resistant to these older poisons such as 2,4-D. A rewarding business for companies like Monsanto, who are also manufacturers of weed control agents and holders of patents for the genetic engineering plants that are particularly resistant to their agents. However, this practice is a considerable financial burden for farmers and a health risk for the population as a whole. Because the entry of appropriate toxins into our environment increases dramatically. In this context, researchers at the United States National Cancer Institute recently pointed out the risk of cancer from weed killers such as glyphosate and 2,4-D. (fp)

Image: Uschi Dreiucker /

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