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the weed killer brand that engineers seeds

Roundup Ready crop seeds have notoriously been referred to as "terminator seeds." This is because the crops produced from Roundup Ready seeds are sterile. Each year, farmers must purchase the most recent strain of seed from Monsanto. This means that farmers cannot reuse their best seed. Read more about terminator seeds.

Roundup Ready crops are crops genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup. Roundup is the brand-name of a herbicide produced by Monsanto. Its active ingredient glyphosate was patented in the 1970s. Roundup is widely used by both people in their backyards and farmers in their fields. Roundup Ready plants are resistant to Roundup, so farmers that plant these seeds must use Roundup to keep other weeds from growing in their fields.

The first Roundup Ready crops were developed in 1996, with the introduction of genetically modified soybeans that are resistant to Roundup. These crops were developed to help farmers control weeds. Because the new crops are resistant to Roundup, the herbicide can be used in the fields to eliminate unwanted foliage. Current Roundup Ready crops include soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, and sorghum, with wheat under development.

About Roundup Ready Crops

Disclaimer: This website was created in 2009 as part of an MIT undergraduate course on Mapping Controversies. The author of this website is not an expert in this field. This website is being maintained for educational purposes and posterity only. It is a self-published source that should be verified by another source. For more information on verifying sources, see the Wikipedia guidelines for verifiability and identifying reliable sources.

To read more about genetically modified food from a few different perspectives, check out the key players page. To learn more about the impact of Roundup Ready seeds, check out the impact page.

The OCA is an online non-profit organization formed in 1998. They are interested in key issues such as food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, coroporate accountability and environmental sustainability (link). Most relevant to the discussion of Roundup Ready crops is the OCA’s Millions Against Monsanto Campaign (link). Like Greenpeace (in page link), the OCA is outraged by Monsanto’s treatment of Percy Schmeiser, a canola farmer from Canada. The OCA also claims that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide has been found to aid the spread of fusarium head blight in wheat. Wheat infected with fusarium head blight is unsafe for human or animal consumption.

Information about the regulatory process of the EPA can be found online in the Federal Register. Roundup Ready soybean, corn, canola, sugar beet, and cotton are currently deregulated and Roundup Ready alfalfa is currently regulated. Wheat is still in development.

The EPA reviews each Roundup Ready crop that Monsanto would like to sell. According to regulations in 7 CFR part 340 (as referenced in this federal register), "introduction of organisms and products altered or produced through genetic engineering which are plant pests or which there is reason to believe are plant pests” should be regulated. This includes the introduction of such organisms into the environment. Any person may submit a petition to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS, part of the USDA) seeking that an article be returned to deregulated status.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA)

UCS take a stance on issues involving science and the environment and perform third-party research on a variety of issues such as global warming, nuclear power and genetic engineering. The UCS has taken an interesting stance on genetic engineering, more of which can be read about here. The group argues that biotechnology is not a solution to sustainable agriculture. They definite sustainable agriculture as “both highly productive and protective of the natural resources on which future productivity depends.” Based on such a definition, farmers should seek to reduce their reliance on products that can’t be grown on the farm. In order to use Roundup Ready crops, for example, farmers need to purchase the new seeds every year, along with large quantities of Roundup to keep weeds out of their fields. A more appropriate approach, UCS argues, would seek to increase the quality of products, profit for farmers (and not corporations) and minimize environmental pollution. In order to achieve this goal, UCS recommends a new research agenda that focuses on evaluating the potential of new biotechnology to advance sustainable agriculture and ensure that all products are properly regulated.

Disclaimer: This website was created in 2009 as part of an MIT undergraduate course on Mapping Controversies. The author of this website is not an expert in this field. This website is being maintained for educational purposes and posterity only. It is a self-published source that should be verified by another source. For more information on verifying sources, see the Wikipedia guidelines for verifiability and identifying reliable sources.

Greenpeace has issued a number of reports related to genetic engineering. A full listing is available on their website. Most relevant to our discussion is an outline of the legal history of Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto (link). Schmeiser was sued after genetically engineered canola was discovered on his farm. Genetically engineered canola was introduced in Canada in the mid-1990s, and it has been impossible to grow non-genetically engineered canola due to massive contamination. Farmers are held responsible for any losses that occur due to genetic contamination. If a farmer’s own seed becomes contaminated with genetically engineered canola, that canola becomes the property of Monsanto, according to a court order. In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Schmeiser violated Monsanto’s patent when he grew canola that contained Monsanto’s Roundup Ready gene. A more detailed timeline of the case can be found here.

One issue Greenpeace addressed in 2004 involved maize in Mexico (link). Monsanto and the US government have assured consumers that genetically engineered crops are safe and do not propose a contamination threat to natural species. However, a report was leaked that argues the contrary, and the Bush administration attempted to suppress the report. The report recommended that all genetically engineered maize imports be labelled, and that all maize imported from the US be milled immediately, to prevent US seeds from being planted. Reports of contaminated maize began in 2001 when scientists discovered contamination of local varieties of maize with genetically engineered maize. The US government was very critical of the report, and many were upset that the US takes their own regulation so seriously yet had such disregard for another country.

Loss of Habitat

Herbicide tolerant crops are designed to tolerate specific broad-spectrum herbicides, which kill the surrounding weeds, but leave the cultivated crop intact. Currently, the only varieties Cultivated in the U.S. are engineered to be tolerant to glyphosate. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently in the process of deregulating other new varieties of crops that are resistant to 2,4-D and other herbicides.

Glyphosate Tolerant Crops

Human Health Risks

2,4-D has a high potential to leach from soils and can be a potential ground water contaminate. Environmental monitoring detected the herbicide in streams, groundwater and even drinking water. Studies document 2,4-D’s negative impacts on a wide range of animals. In birds, 2,4-D exposure reduced hatching success and caused birth defects. Toxic to fish, 2,4-D can bio-accumulate inside the fish. 2,4-D also is toxic to honey bees and earthworms.

Pesticide resistance, the ability of an organism to withstand a poison, is a predictable consequence of repeated pesticide use. How quickly pesticide resistance develops depends on: the frequency of use, the mechanisms of resistance, the genetics of the resistance mechanism, the size of the gene pool and how quickly the organisms reproduce.