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Glyphosate-resistant Strains of Weeds Cause Farmers to Seek Alternatives

Countries are banning glyphosate over health concerns, and also because the product no longer works

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - There is an economic element to banning glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide. Glyphosate stops weeds from growing by killing all but the crops it comes into contact with except those that are genetically modified to be resistant. Using the product has saved farmers billions of dollars in what would have been manual labor cost pulling weeds. Glyphosate may have saved the factory farm industry, and much of the weed management savings passed on to consumers in the form of lower produce prices. Foods like boxed cereals and other processed foods benefit when the prices of commodities like soybeans, alfalfa, and grains are low. Banning glyphosate would raise the cost of weed control so high that the price of food could double, triple, or more, and that is no exaggeration. Without the savings that glyphosate provides, most farmers would be out of business, food production would plummet, and the greatest fear of poorer nations facing famine is a real possibility.

People all over the world, including farmers themselves, are deeply concerned, however, that glyphosate can cause diseases such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a rare but deadly form of cancer of the lymph nodes. Some scientists at MIT and elsewhere are convinced that glyphosate is responsible for the explosive increases in the number of cases of childhood autism and obesity. Environmental experts accuse glyphosate of disrupting an essential part of the food chain. The summaries these problems. "It (glyphosate) impedes on the health of pollinators and humans alike. The herbicide is linked to increased risk of cancer in humans, the destruction of milkweed, the primary food of monarch caterpillars, which in turn wipes out monarch butterflies and effects honeybees' ability to pollinate."

Many countries like agricultural leader Mexico have recently scheduled a phased-in process of banning glyphosate over the next three to five years to minimize the economic disruption that banning glyphosate will cause. Bayer, the parent company of Monsanto, the maker of Roundup herbicide, has invested $5 billion in research to develop a new form of weed killer that does not contain glyphosate. This is being done for a couple of reasons. First, the company is looking to replace glyphosate before another company's weedkiller can cannibalize their global dominance. The other reason is that glyphosate may cause weeds to develop advanced glyphosate-resistant strains.

Canada's Lisa Ashworth, president of The Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick echoed the sentiments of farmers in the United States and across the globe. "For farmers to remain competitive in the world market and support your local economy, we need access to the most effective tools to manage weed, insect, and disease problems that can threaten the quality, value, and quantity of our crops," Ms. Ashworth told CBC Canada. told readers recently, "The proliferation of glyphosate-resistant weeds is increasingly forcing growers to use additional or alternative management tools to achieve adequate weed control."

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