Super Productive

When I initially began learning about organics, I had mixed feelings about the terms “super-weeds” and “super-bugs”. I understood the concept that weeds and insects could evolve until strains developed that would withstand the powerful herbicides and insecticides being used against their species. And I liked the image that the terms created: ever-harsher poisons being used against the infinitely creative natural forces.

Yet, these images also represented the radically unacceptable. I couldn’t fully imagine this scene coming to life.

But it has. And not only are the chemical manufactures admitting it, they are also profiting from it. Below are several ads I found in the magazine “Today’s Farmer” (Feb 2008). The recurrent theme: glyphosate (Roundup Ready) is not as effective as it used to be. Soybeans and corn have been genetically engineered to resist applications of roundup– the weeds (are suppose to) die, the cultivated crop survives and the farmer has piece of mind with robust, competition-free crops. But here’s the truth:

This ad title says: “The Evolution of Waterhemp treated with glyphosate”. The caption explains: “The weeds have evolved. Now it’s your turn. Glyphosate just isn’t working like it used to on tough weeds like waterhemp…”

It’s as if the companies knew this was coming all along. As if they were eagerly waiting for the super-weeds to emerge, so that they could drain pockets with more products.

Is this what is meant by life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? This one says: “Join the movement” (peer pressure) “Choose the only non-selective alternative to Roundup Ready” (ie. some weeds have developed resistance to Roundup.) “Turn up the heat on all your weeds, including a growing list that glyphosate leaves behind.” (Note that the list is growing.) “The Liberty/LibertyLink system gives you the same benefits as the Roundup Ready system– but with a unique mode of action. Rotating Liberty and Roundup programs will keep both viable for years to come.” (How many more years?)

I would have a hard time writing the words “harmony”, “power”, and “herbicide” in such close proximity, but in this ad, they have accomplished this feat seemingly with ease. “The POWER to control tough broadleaves and grasses in HARMONY with your corn. New laudis Postemergence herbicide has the power to take out a broad spectrum of both broadleaf and grass weeds while delivering unsurpassed crop safety.” (I assume they mean that the crop will not be damaged; not necessarily about the safety of consuming the crop or, for that matter, soil health.) “You also get residual control, but it won’t keep you from rotating to soybeans the next season. Plus, Laudis helps you control glyphosate-resistant weeds.” (Here it comes up again. Superweeds are an economic benefit to the herbicidal industry.) “Go ahead and try some on your acres and discover a new power– in harmony with your corn.” (Thanks, but no thanks.)

Farmers are the backbone of any civilization. Without food, we are hungry. Without fiber, we are naked. Without wood, we are cold.

A farmer supplies all of these.

“All farmers have off farm jobs.” Farmer after farmer tells us this. And the outside job doesn’t only help pay the bills, it lets a farmer farm. It pays for the farm. Farming has become a hobby, rather than an income. In essence, our farmers are producing our meals for free.

The great irony is that farmers are producers. They are actually creating wealth in the form of cattle, milk, or plants (usually corn or soybeans), but they receive hardly any of that wealth in return. Where does it go? Take a look at those ads again. It goes to those companies. It goes to Wall Street, where investors sell when prices are high, not when the harvest is in or the storage bin is full. It goes to processors, who “add value” (as if food was valueless before it’s processed)– a little salt and oil makes a cheap potato into a high-priced chip.

And yet, the story of the farmer needs to change. (The following commentary has not been researched, but represent my observations and reading.) I bet that US farmers feed the plastics and fuel industry more than they feed humans. And we could probably find out that farm subsidies encourage the use of hericides, pesticides and monocropping. On many farms, beef cattle begin their life on pasture, but are “finished” in high-intensive feed lots on “unnatural” corn-based diets. (Note that pastured-raised beef is a highly sought after commodity by the health and environmentally-conscious consumer.)

In “From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank” by Josh Tickell (using veggie oil as an alternative fuel), he claims that the government pays farmers to keep their land fallow and if that land was used for fuel crops, many of our fuel needs could be locally met. It is true that the government programs keep land fallow. Almost every farmer I know here has some land in what is called “CRP” (Conservation Restoration Program). Basically, they are paid not to grow crops. I’m not particularly fond of this program myself, but it does keep overworked land from becoming more depleted.

I wonder how much of our food comes from outside of the USA. And how much of our food supply is grown outside of our home state. And what would it look like if farmers grew food to feed their own people, rather than the herbicide companies.

Certainly then, power would be in harmony.


  1. Brittany

    Browsing through Small Farm Today July/Oct 2007, I found an interesting article entitled “Glyphosate Resistance.”

    “Missouri is the first and only state where three glyphosate-resistannt weeds– tall waterhemp, common ragweed and horseweed– have been identified. Bradly [a weed scientist] said Missouri holds this dubious honor because of the large number of acres planted to continuous soybean, 90% of which use a glyphosate system for weed control” (8).

    Incredible. The farm where they found the third culprit, tall waterhemp, had continuously used glyphosate-based weed control in a field continuously in soybeans since 1996. That’s ten plus years.

    Monocropping and mono-herbiciding equal mega trouble. The experts suggest rotating (herbicides) to prevent weeds from becoming resistant. The editor inserts that using no herbicides is another alternative. That possibility is rarely if ever discussed in the main stream farmer’s news.

    Another article in the same addition is entitled, “Matted Rye weed block”. The caption under a picture of a soybean field states: Flattened stands of rye could give soybean crops the competitve edge over weeds so little or no herbicide is needed.

    Doesn’t mean its easy. But it sure is possible. And the rewards are bountiful.

  2. kayiwa fred

    you have done the most wanted blog
    it is about the major issues for African development i can say