24.09.2012 |

Controversial Agent Orange Chemical to be Used on GM Crops

Superweeds infest a corn field (Photo: One Penny sheet)
Superweeds infest a corn field (Photo: One Penny sheet)

In an attempt to deal with the crippling weed resistance associated with ‘Roundup ready’ GM crops, a US based company is attempting to introduce a new, controversial, GM corn plant. The controversy surrounds the fact that the new GM product relies on a highly toxic chemical that was once a component of the Vietnam war defoliant, Agent Orange. Instead of the new crop being resistant to one chemical, Dow’s new seed is engineered to resist two. New solutions are seen as vital because “superweeds" are now so prevalent in the US, up to 15 million acres of American crops are affected. After planting GM crops over a number of years, thousands of farmers across the US are facing major problems with weeds that are so powerful that spraying them with 24 times the recommended dose of Roundup fails to kill them. One resistant weed every 10 square metres can reduce yields from productive plants by 50%. Dow says this is a more effective solution because it allows farmers to mix and match their sprays more effectively. However, controversy surrounds the fact that the new trait makes crops resistant to a chemical called 2,4-D. This powerful weed killer is currently used sparingly in agriculture because it is highly toxic and scientists are concerned that if farmers are not educated to use the new GM product properly, resistance issues will soon re-appear.

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