Anna Lappé is the author, most recently, of “Diet for a Hot Planet” and co-founder of the Small Planet Institute and the Small Planet Fund.
Times reporters William Neuman and Andrew Pollack investigate a dangerous and underreported consequence of genetically engineered crops: “tenacious new superweeds.” But the spread of superweeds should surprise no one.
We need to manage weeds and pests through natural processes, not toxic chemicals.
In 1999, my late father, scientist Marc Lappé and colleague Britt Bailey explained the threat of these superweeds, which “could require greater amounts of more toxic pesticides to manage, and threaten extinction for rare plants and their weedy relatives relied upon for crop and plant biodiversity.” Many others raised this red flag. Their concerns were largely dismissed as the rantings of Luddites or the hand wringing of elites.
Now we have evidence that, unfortunately, these predictions were prescient, especially here. The United States is ground zero in the global experiment with genetically engineered crops, with more than half of them planted in this country.
Who will pay the price of agribusiness’ power to silence those pointing out the most basic fact of evolutionary genetics, that plants evolve resistance? Farmers pay the price in lower yields; consumers pay the price in the checkout line; all of us pay the price as genetically engineered monocrops replace biodiversity As climate instability worsens, biodiversity is exactly what our farms will need to respond to changing conditions.
Mr. Neuman and Mr. Pollack note the industry’s response is to switch the chemical. No, we’ve got to switch the system.
We should listen to farmers, scientists and development experts who are urging agroecological farming practices, now proven to effectively manage weeds and pests through natural processes not toxic chemicals. And we should urge government support for those many farmers who want to transition away from this dangerous agricultural experiment, but who can’t afford to get off the chemical and biotech treadmill. Finally, in a farm economy where one company, Monsanto, controls more than 90 percent of all genetically modified germplasm, we should encourage competition in the agricultural markets.