Thursday, July 29, 2004

Roundup ready in North Dakota

Genetically engineered soy as far as the eye can see. Welcome to North Dakota. Over 90% of all the soy grown in the US is now genetically engineered. The soy plants have been engineered to be resistant to glphosate, which is the active ingredient in Monsanto's #1 selling herbicide 'Roundup'. Roundup is a broad spectrum herbicide which means it kills pretty much all plants that it comes into contact with - except the soy plants that are engineered to be resistant.

So, farmers plant out the soy crop and then about 3 weeks after the seedlings come up they spray the entire paddock with roundup. This kills all the weeds so that they don't compete with the soy for moisture, nutrients and sunlight. Then, depending on the crop, the farmer will normally spray again later in the season. It is a truly incredible system. Not a weed in sight. It creates a true monoculture.

From the farmers point of view there are a number of benefits. They don't need to think about weeds (at least not until they become glyphosate resistant - after which they have a fairly serious problem). It is generally a less labour intensive system and allows farmers to plant out a larger area. It also means that farmers can use less skilled labour for spraying - because it's just so simple. In fact, farmers don't even really need to know anything about farming any more at all. The instructions are pretty much all on the packet.

The next step is to use a GPS (global positioning system) in the harvesters and tractors so that you can do away with the driver. The driverless tractor is probably only a few years away, and coupled with the roundup ready system will mean that a smaller number of farmers, using large amounts of capital equipment, will be able to farm much larger areas. This should mean that we can do away with most people in rural communities. Excellent. They're dirty anyway. In the not too distant future we'll be able to be completely seperated from our food. It can be grown by machines that are out of sight and out of mind.

The great thing for consumers about Roundup Ready soy is that you get to eat soy with a higher level of glyphosate residue. You also get to have some unknown fragments of DNA in your food that, in all likelihood has never before been part of human diet and which has never actually been tested for long term safety. Hopefully it will be ok.
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1 comment:

Luther Blissett said...

It's an important point to remember that rural communities both here, and it would seem, over there, are being eroded by the increasing automation of the farming industry. Once labour intensive processes, like harvesting and planting employed thousands. In these modern times it only takes hundreds. Given that in the recent past, the hard work has always been done through imported slave labour or subjagated indigenous communities, there were still a lot more jobs going around than there used to be.

So in this way, aren't rural communities themselves to blame for their slow disintergration. Isn't this simply a byproduct of the robber-baron system of agriculture that they themselves played a part in creating and sustaining?