This is a big concern, because the trend promises higher food prices and increased environmental destruction. The use of crops which are genetically modified to resist Roundup herbicide, a short-acting herbicide which used to kill just about all plants helped minimize farming practices which were more labor intensive and promoted chemical runoff and soil erosion. But we may have to return to the practices of past decades.
Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds.
But farmers sprayed so much Roundup that weeds quickly evolved to survive it. “What we’re talking about here is Darwinian evolution in fast-forward,” Mike Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University, said.
Now, Roundup-resistant weeds like horseweed and giant ragweed are forcing farmers to go back to more expensive techniques that they had long ago abandoned.
The problem is relatively small right now, perhaps 4-5% of the crop acreage is affected by these mutant weeds. But its a growing threat and not just in the US. Major crop producing countries such as Australia, China and Brazil are also affected.