Evolution of Round-Up-resistant super-weeds.

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

In an attempt to make large-scale farming easier, and corner the seed markets, Monsanto inadvertently engineered “Round-Up-resistant weeds.”    

Roundup – originally made by Monsanto but now also sold by others under the generic name glyphosate – has been little short of a miracle chemical for farmers. It kills a broad spectrum of weeds, is easy and safe to work with, and breaks down quickly, reducing its environmental impact.

Sales took off in the late 1990s, after Monsanto created its brand of Roundup Ready crops that were genetically modified to tolerate the chemical, allowing farmers to spray their fields to kill the weeds while leaving the crop unharmed. Today, Roundup Ready crops account for about 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States.

But farmers sprayed so much Roundup that weeds quickly evolved to survive it. “What we’re talking about here is Darwinian evolution in fast-forward,” Mike Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University, said.

Sowing the seeds of one’s own destruction does not take that long.

The weed-killer Round-Up is a powerful agent of selection against our distant leafy cousins.  Monsanto’s brilliant idea was to genetically engineer crops that were resistant to Round-Up, so only the natural, non-engineered weeds would die, and leave crops standing.  It worked.  Round-Up was relatively safe and quickly bio-degradable, and it saved lots of manual labor, motorized cultivation, fuel, and even topsoil. You can learn more about some of the different types of topsoil out there by reading this useful guide titled ‘what is topsoil?’. However, put simply, topsoil refers to the nutrient-rich, mineral-dense top layer of soil on the ground. Moreover, the innovation also allowed Monsanto to capture most of the seed markets, turning the US crops into giant mono-cultures having far less genetic variation.

Of course, not all weeds are the same.  Genetic variation within and between species allowed some plants to survive the round-up, leaving successive generations to preferentially pass along their Round-Up resistant genes.   Directional selection for Round-Up resistant super-weeds was virtually inevitable, just as the excessive use of anti-biotics created anti-biotic resistant bacteria that are becoming increasingly difficult to manage in hospitals.  

(Indeed, anti-biotic resistant bacteria are used purposely and routinely for generating genetic material in cloning technology.  Like round-up resistant crops, anti-biotic resistant bacteria containing specific genetic scripts can be grown in large quantities like crops, then purified of “weeds,” the undesirable bacteria that grows incidentally, by application of anti-biotics, leaving  your favored bacterial, DNA-generating machines intact to run off copies of your desired DNA like a roomful of Xerox machines.)

The New York Times has some cool interactive maps showing the spread of round-up resistant weeds in the US over the past 10 years.  Wow.

Of course, a key argument against monoculture seeds is that they reduce and displace genetic variations in crops that could be essential to their survival against unpredictable crop diseases.   Now, we have large, fragile monocultures and Round-Up resistant super-weeds.  So much for Round-Up.

“[Round-Up-resistance] is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.

Darwin  shoots, scores!  Shoots, scores! Etc.  Evolution is the universal acid:

“it eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view, with most of the old landmarks still recognizable, but transformed in fundamental ways.”


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  1. dangerous idea.  You have to give them some credit for running that experiment.

  2. …. which is coming back into favor with those using gluten free flours.  Just don’t eat the leaves, which absorb nitrogen if grown in over fertilized fields.


    Palmer amaranth was once widely cultivated and eaten by Native Americans across North America, both for its abundant seeds and as a cooked or dried green vegetable.[2] Other related amaranthus species have been grown as crops for their greens and seeds for thousands of years in Mexico, South America, the Caribbean, Africa, India, and China. (see Uses of amaranth.)

    The plant is however toxic to livestock animals, due to the presence of nitrates in the leaves.[3] Palmer amaranth has a tendency to absorb excess soil nitrogen, and if grown in overly fertilized soils, it can therefore contain excessive levels of nitrates, even for humans. Like spinach and many other leafy greens, amaranth leaves also contain oxalic acid, which can be harmful to individuals with kidney problems if consumed in excess.[4]

    Because of its toxicity to livestock,[3] and scarce familiarity in the United States with the uses of amaranths as food, Palmer amaranth is rarely consumed nowadays, despite its ubiquity and resistance to drought. Unlike the grain and leaf amaranths of other regions, it has not been cultivated or further improved by recent agricultural breeding. [5] As a result, the primary economic importance of Palmer amaranth to American farmers has been as a noxious weed and a competitor to more marketable crops, rather than as a crop in its own right.[1]

    Amaranth as Grain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A

    Several species are raised for amaranth grain in Asia and the Americas. Ancient amaranth grains still used to this day include the three species, Amaranthus caudatus, Amaranthus cruentus, and Amaranthus hypochondriacus.[6] Although amaranth was (and still is) cultivated on a small scale in parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, India, and Nepal, there is potential for further cultivation in the U.S and tropical countries and it is often referred to as “the crop of the future.”[7] It has been proposed as an inexpensive native crop that could be cultivated by indigenous people in rural areas for several reasons: 1) easily harvested, 2) produces a lot of fruits (and thus seeds) which are used as grain, 3) highly tolerant of arid environments which are typical of most subtropical and some tropical regions, and 4) large amounts of protein and essential amino acids, such as lysine.[8] Due to its weedy life history, amaranth grains grow very rapidly and their large seedheads can weigh up to 1 kilogram and contain a half-million seeds.[9] Amaranthus species are reported to have a 30% higher protein value than cereals, such as rice, wheat flour, oats, and rye.[10]

    Amaranth grain is a crop of moderate importance in the Himalaya. It was one of the staple foodstuffs of the Incas, and it is known as kiwicha in the Andes today. It was also used by the ancient Aztecs, who called it huautli, and other Native America peoples in Mexico to prepare ritual drinks and foods. To this day, amaranth grains are toasted much like popcorn and mixed with honey, molasses or chocolate to make a treat called alegría (joy in Spanish).

    Amaranth and quinoa are called pseudograins because of their flavor and cooking similarities to grains. These are dicot plant seeds, and both contain exceptionally complete protein for plant sources. Besides protein, amaranth grain provides a good source of dietary fiber and dietary minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and especially manganese.

    Bob’s Red Mill organic amaranth flour nutrient facts

    8% protein

    12% dietary fiber

    7% carbohydrate

    3% fat

    4% calcium

    12% iron

    per 1/4 cup  30 gram 110 calorie serving


    Amaranth seems to help gluten free baked goods resist mold and it does not need xantham gum added to it to act as a binding agent. (my observations)


    So Monsanto is trying to kill off a valuable, edible seed plant known for centuries, that grows easily like a weed, by selling farmers herbicide resistant GMO seed that is now leading to the creation of SUPER WEEDS.

    Meanwhile, we import the stuff so I can pay $5 bucks a pound for it at the health food store.


    There was a reason I had a cadre of special interests chasing me around another website.

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