Weeds aren’t as dumb as you might think. Kill enough of them with a certain herbicide, and some will eventually figure out how to become resistant to that herbicide, rendering it useless. This fact appears to be lost on the scientists at Dow Chemical and the bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
So-called “Superweeds” have already become resistant to glyphosate, sold by Monsanto as Roundup, which farmers apply to 80 percent of the soybean acreage in the United States and 66 percent of corn acreage, according to research sponsored by the agricultural chemical industry. After being doused with the herbicide for two decades, at least 14 weed species in 29 states have evolved traits that allow them to survive applications of the popular chemical.
Dow’s solution has been to combine glyphosate with an older, even nastier herbicide called 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange, the notorious defoliant used in Vietnam. The new chemical cocktail, called Enlist Duo, is meant to be deployed in combination with Dow’s Enlist corn, soybeans, and cotton varieties, which are genetically engineered to survive the weed killer.
Earlier this month the EPA approved Enlist Duo, clearing the way for it to be applied to American fields, even though over one million citizens, 60 members of Congress, and 35 prominent doctors petitioned the agency to disallow application of a chemical that many claim has been associated with immune system cancers, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, and reproductive problems.
The Center for Food Safety, a consumer group, vowed to battle the EPA’s decision in court.
But the final verdict may be out of the legal system’s hands. Enlist Duo has already sowed the seeds of its own obsolescence. Scientific studies (see here and here) have proven what should be obvious to agrichemical producers and government officials who allow them to use poisonous chemicals: Weeds will inevitably become resistant to the new herbicide cocktail.
By then, one fears, the corporations will have come up with another, even more toxic “solution.”