Just as has happened with antibiotic resistant bacteria such as MRSA, weeds/plants eventually genetically mutate to become resistant to the effects of herbicides. This should not have been an unforeseen occurrence but rather an expected one. Nature is immensely adaptable which has been how she has put up with so much human abuse. This same adaptability, however, can also create some problems.
For the past few decades there has been a transition to the use of primarily “herbicide ready” grains such as soybeans. Herbicide ready simply means that a gene has been inserted into the plant that allows the plant to not be killed by herbicides. This allows the field to be sprayed selectively killing only the weeds and increasing crop yield. With time, the weeds have mutated to now develop a natural resistance to the herbicide ensuring their survival as all things do in nature.
The result of the growing resistance to the commonly used herbicide has now led to the need to use multiple combinations of herbicides to get the same job done creating even greater environmental stress and increased human secondary exposure. This is significant given the fact that there is a growing link between human pesticide, fungicide and herbicide exposure, and the risk of diabetes. The list of other links to human diseases is long and growing.
Unfortunately, the offered solutions seem to be coming from the very thinking and culture that created the problem in the first place. The USDA now has an application before it to allow the use of a genetically engineered (GE) corn variety that is resistant to the highly toxic herbicide 2,4-D, one of the main ingredients in Agent Orange.
The chemicals in agent orange are so toxic and difficult to remove from the environment that the health effects and the cost of the cleanup are still being felt in Vietnam some 40 years later and in the United States.
The approval of the new GMO corn to allow the use of a yet more toxic herbicide is likely to accelerate the cycle of deliberately mutated corps leading to more unintentionally (but know) mutated weeds which will require yet more toxic herbicides. The only ones to profit from this are the corporate concerns in this industry. In doing so it is, and will not be harmless to the planet and its inhabitants, plant, animal or human.
The rallying cry behind GMO crops is that they are needed to feed the starving masses of the world. However, starvation is more commonly related to political strife in under-developed countries, and the vast amount of GMO product is used to over-feed the developed world.
Perhaps the best solution is to lower the demand for GMO food to make the industry less self-sustaining. The pointed additional questions about the direct human impact of consuming genetically modified food may be an equal concern. Most needed change for the public benefit seems to come from the bottom up these days. If we refuse to eat anything GMO, the solution will naturally evolve.