Superweeds: A Mutating Problem

Superweeds have been in been in the news a lot over the last few months. Most of the recent coverage has been related to new 2,4-D resistant crops that were recently approved by the USDA and the new herbicide formulation (2,4-D plus glyphosate) that the EPA is reviewing. Marc Brazeau recently wrote a compelling piece arguing that our focus on superweeds in GMO crops draws attention away from solutions that could really help make modern agriculture more sustainable. I’ve written about …

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Have genetically engineered herbicide-resistant crops increased or decreased herbicide use?

It’s a simple question. And at first glance it seems like there should be a simple answer to this simple question. We have planted millions of acres of genetically-engineered (GE) crops, a vast majority of which are resistant to herbicides. In the U.S., we’ve collected lots of herbicide sales and usage data, spanning the entire time period when GE herbicide-resistant crops went from non-existent to dominating the landscape. So we should be able to simply look at the herbicide data before …

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Want to reduce herbicide resistance? Spray more herbicides!

A while ago, I wrote a post summarizing the pros and cons of using a regulatory framework to slow the evolution of herbicide resistant weeds. As a part of that post, I suggested there exists a “resistance management paradox.” In a nutshell, to reduce the problem of herbicide resistant weeds, one important strategy may be to actually use more herbicide. From my previous post: “The only way to assuredly prevent herbicide resistance from evolving is never to apply the herbicide; but if we are going to …

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On transparency, intimidation, and being called a shill

A while back, a group of scientists involved in research or communication about various aspects of biotechnology (GMOs) were the subjects of freedom of information requests. Keith Kloor, who broke the story in Science, also posted one of the letters sent to the University of Illinois. The request asks for all emails in the last 2+ years between the scientists and a long list of companies. Gary Ruskin, an activist funded by the Organic Consumers Association, is making these requests while suggesting the …

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GMOs, Herbicides, and the New England Journal of Medicine

An opinion piece was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, written by Dr. Philip Landrigan (an M.D.) and Dr. Charles Benbrook (PhD) titled “GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health”. I was asked to review the piece this week, and I can only assume it will eventually make the rounds on social media. So I thought it was worth commenting here since it is related to herbicides and herbicide-resistant GMO crops. The “Perspective” piece is basically a plea from Dr. Landrigan and Dr. …

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What does Chipotle’s switch to non-GMO ingredients mean for pesticide use?

A couple weeks ago, Chipotle announced they were removing genetically engineered crops (called GMOs) from their menu. Kind of. As you might expect, the announcement was covered widely in the media. Interestingly, though, most of the coverage wasn’t very positive. There’s a fairly long list of responses to the Chipotle decision if you’d like to read more about it. A variety of issues are covered in those responses, but I wanted to take a deeper look into the impact this switch might …

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Regulating Herbicide Resistance

A few months ago, I wrote about 2,4-D resistant corn and soybean. At that time, the USDA had just completed it’s draft environmental impact statement for the two crops. While the USDA regulates crops developed through biotechnology, it is the EPA that regulates pesticide use. So before the new formulation of 2,4-D can be applied to the new corn and soybean varieties, it will need to be approved for use by the EPA. The comment period for the 2,4-D draft …

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Cotton growers continue to battle herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth

A new press release from WSSA was released a few days ago. The post is related to my recent post on cotton yields in the South. From the WSSA piece: “The current model simply isn’t sustainable,” says Stanley Culpepper, Ph.D., a professor in crop and soil science at the University of Georgia and member of WSSA. “Growers have gone to war, and they are making progress from a weed management perspective, but not from an economic or environmental perspective. We …

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Large-scale impacts of herbicide-resistant weeds

As I was updating information on herbicide resistant weeds for class this week, I wanted to find some hard numbers on the large-scale impact herbicide-resistance can have. Obviously, my first thought was to find information on cotton production in the South. Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth has been something of a poster child for the potentially devastating impacts of herbicide resistant weeds in the last few years. It has been dubbed a “superweed” by many, including Nature News, the New York Times, …

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Carl Zimmer brings a refreshing bit of perspective to the discussion of herbicide resistant weeds

Weeds have been in the media quite a lot lately. Usually related to some sensational story about “superweeds” and how they’re “winning.” So it was extremely refreshing to read the measured take by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times Environment section, titled “Looking for Ways to Beat the Weeds.” Zimmer doesn’t resort to over-the-top statements and headlines as link-bait, and instead presents an interesting and accurate assessment of many of the problems with weeds. Perhaps most refreshing? He doesn’t …

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