The GM Arms Race

IMG_20140814_145642I do worry about the direction of some scientific research at the moment. Surely every right thinking person knows about evolution, right? Survivial of the fittest? Is any of this sounding familiar?

So why are people still surprised that spraying more sophisticated chemical pesticides leads to more sophisticated weeds, who are resistant to the weed-killer? Is it just me, or is that pretty obvious? Yet so many millions of dollars are being poured into making crops resistant to weedkillers, so that more chemicals can be used to kill the weeds around them. How can people not see the inevitable evolution of weeds that will resist the sprays? Come on people! Like Mugatu in Zoolander, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! Why are people still doing it?

Is it really sensible, or even economic, to carry on investing in producing more crops that are oblivious to ever increasing amounts of pesticides just to keep on top of these evolving weeds? Here’s a radical thought: why not ditch that idea of racing to chemically arm yourself quicker than the weeds evolve, and only have chemicals in your armoury: why not, oh, I don’t know, use something that actually physically takes the weed 0ut? That way there are plenty of other benefits too: no chemicals to affect wildlife, and they can make use of the weeds before they’re taken out; once weeded out the plants can be left as a mulch to protect the soil from drying out/more weeds germinating/protect the soil structure from the elements; then they get broken down back into soil organic matter. So let’s have more investment in manual labour systems that hand-weed; or tillage attachments for tractors; or even the exciting machinery being invented as we speak all around agricultural and engineering colleges? Think Lasers, super-light-weight tractors, robotics…

Yes this is getting a bit Sci-Fi; but I do prefer this version of the future of farming with things you can see and handle (safely), rather than noxious chemicals. These pesticide vs weed war games aren’t getting us anywhere.

Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

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