While issues regarding the safety of GMO plants are still being debated, biotech companies like Monsanto are continuing to develop additional GMO crops to introduce into the market. They recently have new GM crops ready for commercial deployment pending ongoing review by the Environmental Protection Agency. The new crops in line for deployment are the Bollgard II XtendFlex Cotton and the Roundup Ready 2 XtendTM Soybeans.
The new GM cotton and GM soybeans from Monsanto are engineered to withstand the effects and survive from multiple herbicides. The existing versions of these GM crops, which came out
During the late 1990’s, were developed to only withstand the effects of the herbicide glyphosate. The new GM cotton can survive exposure to three herbicides, namely, glyphosate, glufosinate and dicamba. The new GM soybean can survive exposure to dicamba and glyphosate. The ability of the new GM crops to withstand herbicide exposure allows farmers to spray entire fields with herbicides instead of simply targeting areas with weeds.
According to the proponents of the new GM crops believe these plants will help the farmers get rid of tough-to-manage weeds that affect yields. But those against such crops believe that the beneficial effects are short-lived. Previous GM crops have led to the development of superweeds. The overdependence of farmers to GM crops has led to lesser diversity in the agricultural landscape. Around 75 percent of cotton and 90 percent of soybeans in the US are GM crops. This accelerated the genetic mutation that allowed the weeds to develop resistance to glyphosate.
As the superweeds develop, it makes farmers increase their use of herbicides. And the industry response to this growing problem is to create even more powerful herbicides, which may eventually have negative effects on the environment and human health. The use of glyphosate may be considered acceptable as it is relatively safe and non-toxic. But plans of developing more powerful herbicides in the future may not be a safe bet.
But proponents to the new GM crops argue that using multiple herbicides on crops may help farmers control weed more effectively. It will help make it more difficult for weeds to adjust and develop a resistance to threats such as herbicides. The multi-tactical approach may indeed work better than the mistake of relying only on one herbicide for weed control, as what happened to the first GM crops.
But there are still many concerns regarding this new approach to controlling weeds. Farmers may now need to make use of three different herbicides for their GM crops. It is not entirely sure whether this may decrease overall herbicide use and the cost to purchase them. Moreover, scientists are concerned about the residual effects of leftover herbicides in the soil that can potentially have an environmental as well as human impact over time.
Source: GM Watch