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Justin Cariker grabs a 7-foot Palmer pigweed on his farm, bending the wrist-thick stem to reveal how it has dwarfed the cotton plant beneath it. This is no ordinary weed. Over time it has developed resistance to Monsanto Co. (MON)’s best-selling herbicide, Roundup.
Hundreds of such “superweeds” are rising defiantly across this corner of the Mississippi Delta.
“We’re not winning the battle,” Cariker, the 45-year-old owner of Maud Farms in Dundee, Mississippi, said as he looks at the weeds that tower over his infested cottonfield like green scarecrows.
Cariker’s superweeds represent a growing problem for Monsanto, whose $10.5 billion of annual sales are anchored in crops genetically engineered to tolerate Roundup, the world’s best selling weedkiller, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Sept. 12 issue. The use of Roundup Ready seeds has transformed farming in the 15 years since their debut, allowing growers to easily dispatch hundreds of types of weeds with a single herbicide while leaving crops unscathed.
“When the Roundup system first came out, to a farmer this was the best thing that ever happened,” said Cariker, who has used the labor-saving technology to double his farm to 5,000 acres. “It was a gravy train. All the farmers thought we had died and gone to heaven.”See also:
Not exactly: The widespread use of Roundup has led to the evolution of far tougher-to-eradicate strains of weeds. As a result, rivals such as Dow Chemical Co. (DOW), DuPont Co., Syngenta AG (SYNN) and Bayer AG (BAYN) see an opportunity to revive sales of older herbicides still able to kill many Roundup-resistant weeds, allowing them to challenge Monsanto’s dominance in genetically modified crops.
Still, the substitutes could eventually create weeds that survive multiple chemicals, just as increased use of antibiotics in pigs and chicken has led to the evolution of bacteria that resist multiple drugs, said Charles Benbrook, chief scientist at the Organic Center in Troy, Oregon....MORE
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