One of my favorite lines in the movie Jurassic Park occurs during the scene where Drs. Grant and Sattler are suffering through the presentation of the biology behind the cloned dinosaurs. While the group gazes upon a hatching velociraptor, Dr. Wu reveals how the scientists at the park control the population: the dinosaurs are all female, thus preventing natural breeding. Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Malcolm, disagrees: ”If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free. It expands to new territories, it crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh, well, there it is!….I’m simply saying that, uh, life finds a way.”
Any gardener knows that weeds are a season long battle. Those of us that garden organically deal with weeds the old fashioned way – usually by pulling them out by hand and using earth-friendly mulches. One of the major problems of industrial agriculture is the overuse of the herbicide glyphosate to kill weeds, more commonly known as Roundup, and the genetic modification of corn, cotton and soybeans that allow these crops to withstand the application of the herbicide.
Putting aside for the moment the potential implications of consuming genetically altered food, some agriculture experts have worried about the eventual resistance to glyphosate that would build up in the weed population. After all, it stands to follow that if we can alter the genetics of corn and soybeans artificially, natural selection would do the same for weeds. The invention of glyphosate & companion genetically modified seeds by agribusiness giant Monsanto allowed industrial farmers to greatly increase crop yields, resulting in extremely low corn and soybean prices (which are propped up by the government, but that’s a whole different subject). Fields with weeds run amok will reduce those yields, and could impact the prices of nearly every food item in your local grocery store.
Well, according to the NYT, apparently that time has come. Roundup-resistant weeds are sprouting up in 22 states, and the problem is growing. And the solutions proposed to fight resistant weeds are not good: spraying more Roundup, mixed with other herbicides – some of them more dangerous than Roundup. Add to that the possible need for increased tilling, which increases soil erosion and runoff of all those additional chemicals, and the picture is bleak.
Life finds a way to live, whether we want it to or not.
Of course, organic farming does not allow for the use of herbicides, or the use of genetically modified seeds. Purchasing organic products lowers the demand for industrial farming. Until the whole unsustainable system of industrial farming implodes – and at some point I believe it will – buying local and/or organic products are one small way we can buck against the world built by Monsanto.