In her seminal book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson warned a pesticide-happy America about the ill effects of rampant DDT usage. Carson understood the pervasive influence of pesticide manufacturers and the ability to influence public debate, writing, “When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of truth. We urgently need an end to these false assurances . . . .”
Carson’s observations ring true today. Glyphosate, marketed by Monsanto under the name “Round-Up,” an herbicide, has saturated agribusiness through a near-monopoly of glyphosate-resistant seeds. These seeds include major U.S. cash crops, like corn and soy.
While there has been plenty of noise surrounding Monsanto’s intellectual property lawsuits against farmers whose land is inadvertently germinated by glyphosate-resistant seeds, there is a growing uproar over the infiltration of glyphosate-resistant weeds.
To the extent we value our forests, parks, and undeveloped land, the widespread use of glyphosate and the resistant plant species it promotes should concern anyone interested in conserving those natural resources.
Some of these plants, like ragweed, aggravate allergies. Others, like Palmer’s pigweed, spread so quickly and diffusely that they crowd out local biodiversity in undeveloped land as much as any industrial farm. Farmers have now moved to other herbicides specifically focused on destroying these weeds, and the cycle continues. Agriculture is painting itself into a corner. Our arable land and pristine parks suffer as a result.
We may disagree whether farmland is a natural resource itself. However, the environmental impact of blanket applications of Round-Up invite scrutiny wherever our natural resources are valued. Monsanto has aggressively pushed for greater use of glyphosate and has been modifying the formula to account for resistant weeds. The public must demand the reduction of glyphosate resistant crops to encourage more judicious use of chemicals that only serve to eat away at our soil’s vivacity and our environment’s beauty.