Using brute force to beat nature

Lowdown

| May 16, 2012

Rather than finding ways to cooperate with the natural world, America's agribusiness giants reach for the next quick fix in a futile effort to overpower nature.

Their attitude is that if brute force isn't working, they're probably not using enough of it.

Monsanto, for example, has banked a fortune by selling a corn seed that it genetically manipulated to produce corn plants that won't die when sprayed with a widely used toxic weedkiller called Roundup.

Not coincidentally, Monsanto also happens to be the maker of Roundup, so it has profited from the seed and from the huge jump in Roundup sales that the seed generated.

Slick.

But Mother Nature, damn her, has rebelled. So much of Monsanto's poison was spread in the past decade that weeds naturally developed a resistance to it. As a Dow Chemical agronomist put it, "The real need here is to diversify our weed management systems."

Exactly right! We need non-chemical, non-GMO, sustainable systems that work with nature.

But, no, the Dow man didn't mean that at all. He was calling for more brute force in the form of Dow's new genetically altered corn seed that can absorb Dow's super-potent 2,4-D weedkiller. Use this, he says, and nature will be defeated.

Wrong. Nature doesn't quit.

The weeds will keep evolving, and they will adapt to Dow's high-tech fix, too. By pushing the same old thing relentlessly, says an independent crop scientist, agribusiness interests "ratchet up [America's] dependence on the use of herbicides, which is very much a treadmill."

It's time to start listening to the weeds — and cooperating with Mother Nature. To advance this common-sense approach, a national coalition is backing a California "right to know" initiative requiring GMO foods to be labeled.

To help, go to Organic Consumers Association, organicconsumers.org.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.

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