Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Anti-GMO Campaigners Claim Victory as 'Monsanto Protection Act' Stripped From Senate Bill

Organizers cheer, saying the voices raised against genetically modified foods and giveaways to biotech giants were heard

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Flickr / Becker1999 / Creative Commons LicenseAn amendment dubbed the "Monsanto Protection Act," which currently allows large agriculture and biotech corporations to ignore court orders involving the safety of genetically modified seeds, has been stripped from Senate's spending bill that could be voted on as early as Wednesday afternoon.
Following an organized campaign against the provision in recent months, its removal was being cheered by food safety and environmental activists as a victory.
“Millions of people around the world were outraged when the bill passed originally and removing the Monsanto Protection Act from the current bill is a sign that the food movement has arrived politically. The American people are tired of Monsanto’s lies and the manipulation of our political process and we’re not backing down.” - Dave Murphy, Food Democracy Now!
The Monsanto Protection Act, otherwise known as the Farmer Assurance Provision rider, was wedged into a stop-gap budget bill that passed earlier this year and signed into law by President Obama in March.
The rider was the source of outrage by many and quickly dubbed a form of "corporate welfare" that benefited large biotechnology corporations firms such as Monsanto and Syngenta as it barred US federal courts from being able to prevent the sale or planting of GMO crops even if they failed to meet federal safety standards or were discovered to be harmful to humans or the environment.
In opposition to the law's passage, several online campaigns as well as street protests followed.
The rider was set to expire this year, but an extension of the bill was included in the House's version of the budget bill passed last week.
However, according to a statements released by the offices of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the provision will not be extended and has now been removed from the Senate's version of the bill.
“We have all known this rider’s days were numbered,” Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for the Center for Food Safety, told Politico. “But given the recent GMO contamination episodes of wheat and alfalfa in Oregon and Washington it is clear that our nation’s safeguards, in particular those of the federal courts, should not be under attack from policy riders like this.”
“This is a major victory for the food movement and all those who care about openness and transparency in their government,” said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now! The decision to strip the provision, he said, "is a sign that our voices can make the difference when we are effectively organized.”
According to Murphy's group, its organizing has generated more than half a million signatures in a petition delivered to Congress and the White House demanding the removal of the rider. In addition, the law's opponents logged more than 40,000 phone calls to members of congress in the last two weeks alone.
“This is what happens when people become engaged in the democratic process,” Murphy said. “Millions of people around the world were outraged when the bill passed originally and removing the Monsanto Protection Act from the current bill is a sign that the food movement has arrived politically. The American people are tired of Monsanto’s lies and the manipulation of our political process and we’re not backing down.”
"Short-term appropriations bills are not an excuse for Congress to grandfather in bad policy,”stated O’Neil. “Chairwoman Mikulski’s proposal to halt the Monsanto Protection Act, backed by Majority Leader Reid, is a welcome sea change in a political climate that all too often allows corporate earmarks to slide through must-pass legislation.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Outsourcing America: Sodexo Food Service Contractor Siphons Cash from Kids and Soldiers while Dishing Up Subprime Food

Butcher Sean Basey works behind a "no horsemeat" sign at Bates Butchers in Market Harborough, central England, February 20, 2013. (Source: REUTERS/Darren Staples)Since the 2008 financial crisis, cash strapped states have accelerated the outsourcing of America in hopes of delivering the same services more cheaply. "Desperate government is our best customer," said one executive specializing in infrastructure purchases.
But in many instances, this explosion in outsourcing of government services to private for-profit firms has generated higher prices, poorer service, and scandal. Today, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) launches our in-depth investigation of outsourcing and privatization, which we have called "Outsourcing America Exposed." The investigation will include profiles of a "dirty dozen" list of corporate profiteers and regular reporting on the "Fine Print Follies" -- bad contract language that costs taxpayers big bucks -- and features a new video by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore.
For our first profile, CMD focuses on Sodexo, a multinational company based in France that provides food services to schools, college campuses, the U.S. military, and other government entities across the United States. With about $8.8 billion in annual revenues from operations in North America, Sodexo is a primary driver of the privatization and outsourcing of food services in America. But Sodexo has taken the low road to profitability.

Sodexo "Rebate" Scheme Ensures Race to the Bottom in Suppliers

In 2010, Sodexo was caught fomenting a race to the bottom in food service, by choosing food suppliers based not on quality but based on which supplier could give them the highest cash rebate for the contract. This iced out small local famers and other quality food suppliers in favor of big agriculture and big business that could best engage in the kickback scheme.
After an attorney general investigation, Sodexo paid an eye-popping $20 million in 2010 to settle claims that it overcharged 21 New York school districts and the State University of New York (SUNY) system for food and facilities services from 2004 to 2009. New York's case led to a "major investigation" by at least three other state attorneys general, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Office of Inspector General began a nationwide audit in October 2011 for alleged systematic taxpayer fraud by multiple firms.
The scandal prompted Congressional hearings, and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) declared, "Everyday the government provides meals to our soldiers at home and overseas, veterans, government employees and to our children through the national school lunch program. . . . Recent reports of fraud and other abuses in food service contracts have snowballed. . . . The message of these reports and investigations is clear, we are not doing enough to make sure that the government is not being cheated."

Horsemeat Found in England, Listeria Found in the U.S.

Sodexo's unethical business practices ensure that low quality foods are the norm.
Most famously, Sodexo was implicated in the British horsemeat scandal earlier this year, when the company found horse DNA in some of its products and withdrew all frozen beef products from its catering operations at 2,300 British schools, care facilities, military bases, prisons, office canteens, and sporting venues.
In 2007, when Sodexo was contracted to provide food services to all Marine Corps mess halls in the United States, the USDA recalled 3,000 pounds of chicken that may have been contaminated with Listeria bacteria. Some of that chicken had been shipped to Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. In 2011, Sodexo lost part of its $1.2 billion contract, no longer catering Marine mess halls on both the West and East coasts.
For these and other reasons, numerous school districts and other institutions -- includingeleven universities -- have cancelled some or all contracts with Sodexo, and many are happy with the change.

Public Schools Reject Sodexo, Embrace "Good Food" Instead

Public school district food service directors are often the unsung heroes of districts' successful efforts to kick Sodexo out of the schools and return food service to local control. They work to rebuild the district's food services in the wake of the multinational. Rick Hughes, a former Sodexo employee, now runs the Colorado Springs School District's food services in-house after the district ended its contract with Sodexo. He has been called the "good food guru," and he revamped Colorado Springs' meals program post-Sodexo by setting a high bar for what constituted good food, including whole grains and fresh produce; and no growth hormones, antibiotics, artificial preservatives, added sugars, trans fats, or dyes.
Gema Soto, who is now Food Service Director of the Ashland School District in Oregon after the district ended its contract with Sodexo in 2010, told CMD that the change has been "absolutely positive -- for the kids, for the parents, and definitely for the staff." Sodexo's "large cookie cutter approach" wasn't appropriate, she said, for a little community like Ashland. The kitchen staff now "feel empowered, the district has a measure of control, . . . and parents feel like they have more of a voice." In contrast to when Sodexo ran the program, now "there's someone on site that they can go to with concerns and ideas, as opposed to a management company where you have to go through layers of control, and everyone's getting their orders from on high. Our flexibility has really worked out."
And healthy foods may bring more benefits to kids than previously known, according to new research that links outsourced food with poor performance.

Private Food Service Management Associated with Higher Costs, Lower Test Scores, and More

Privatization of food and other services in school districts and other public institutions has been linked to a whole host of problems. A 2008 study by Roland Zullo of the University of Michigan found "no substantive decrease in the cost of student lunches and a modest increase in the cost of breakfasts with private food management."
Alarmingly, Zullo's study also found that children at Michigan schools with outsourced food service had lower test scores than those whose food was prepared and provided by public employees. Why? An exploration of Centers for Disease Control data led the researchers to suggest that "the cause for the lower test scores is greater availability of high fat and high sugar foods under private food service management."
Zullo told CMD, "When you have privatized food service in schools, they tend to serve more sweetened drinks, and also more high fat and high salt foods. Schools are under financial pressure, and these private firms step up and say they can make the lunchroom into a moneymaker."
But the model under which they do that, when given free reign, he says, is to create virtually a fast food environment, "like a mall food court." The companies, he said, want to sell meals that they think children will want to buy, and they know that high fat, salty foods and sugary drinks are addictive to at least some students. And that kind of food is cheap and inexpensive.

Other Controversies regarding Outsourcing to Sodexo

Sodexo has been mired in other controversies as well. In 1994, Sodexo acquired a significant stock investment in private prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which is infamous for insufficient and inexperienced staff, security, facilities and medical care from efforts to save money and increase profits. CCA's poor management has resulted in frequent violence between inmates and a high record of escapes. By 2000, Sodexo was the largest investor in the company. In March 2000, the Prison Moratorium Project organized universities across the country to expose Sodexo's connection to the CCA. In the campaign, "Not With Our Money," students pressured schools to cut contracts with Sodexo if it did not divest from CCA's operations. After losing contracts with six universities, Sodexo announced in 2001 that it would sell all investments in CCA, but at the same time it increased ownership of private prisons in the UK and Australia.
And Sodexo paid $80 million in April of 2005 to settle a lawsuit brought by the company's thousands of black employees, who claimed that they were "routinely barred from promotions and segregated within the company." Critics also accuse Sodexo of cost savings on the backs of workers and a pattern of interfering with worker rights in many states, including the right to organize.

Sodexo Profits Rise

But through it all, Sodexo continues to rake in the big bucks, much of it from American taxpayers. In the last five years, Sodexo's profits have risen despite the financial crisis, and even as many public school districts -- and other public institutions with which the company contracts -- have seen their funding cut drastically.
The company made $1.036 billion in profits in 2008, and $1.292 billion in profits in 2012. Of its $24 billion in revenues internationally in 2012, 37 percent was from North American operations. Factoring in the fair market value of the stock options he was granted, Sodexo Group's CEO in France, Michel Landel, was paid a total of nearly $4.2 million in 2012.
As children return to school this fall, parents and school districts face a choice: whether to outsource school lunches to for-profit multinational firms like Sodexo with a track record of running up costs and running down quality or to maintain local control of food service and make sure that school boards and school officials sharpen their focus on providing what Rick Hughes calls "good food" as much as possible.
Find out more about Sodexo in CMD's corporate rap sheet here.


Humanity's Heating of Planet is Planting Seeds of Hunger: Report

Ahead of IPCC report on global warming, Oxfam warns of dangerous spiral of poverty and food scarcity

- Jon Queally, staff writer
Pregnant mother Salma faces food shortages due to flooding in her village, Char Atra, in Bangladesh. (Photo: Dan Chung)It is nearly a cliché to declare that the failure of the world's governments to respond to the repeated warnings by scientists and environmentalists about the perils of climate change is a crime against future generations.
However, as a new study released Monday by Oxfam International proves, clichés are born of facts and when it comes to the destructive impact that global warming will have on children—especially in developing nations and poverty-hit regions—the prospects are frightening.
“Leaders listening to the latest findings from climate scientists this week must remember that a hot world is a hungry world." –Tim Gore, Oxfam
Contained in a new report, titled Growing Disruption: Climate Change, Food, and the Fight Against Hunger (pdf), the Oxfam study found that human-driven climate change will leave vulnerable families "caught in a vicious spiral of falling incomes, rising food prices, and declining quality of food, leading to a devastating impact on the health of millions."
In that scenario, according to comments by experts at UNICEF, it is babies and young children who are most susceptible to malnutrition, starvation, and stunted development.
According to the Oxfam report, climate change "will reduce the nutritional value of both crops and livestock, worsen human health and lead to higher prices" of staple crops and key sources of nutrients.
“We've long known that climate change will mean lost crops, but increasingly we're seeing its impacts through higher food prices, lower earnings, more health problems and lower quality food too," said Tim Gore, Head of Policy for Oxfam’s GROW campaign said.
Not only that, but at a time when one in eight people in the world are already going hungry, changes in the climate will reduce production and increase food costs simultaneously, producing shocks which those already stressed by poverty will not be able to absorb, creating a dangerous and deadly spiral.
“Just as the evidence of man-made climate change is becoming stronge" explained Gore, "so too is our understanding of how it hits people, especially around hunger."
As the much anticipated fifth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due out at the end of this week, Oxfam's report is designed to coincide with that release and offer a closer look at how the warming of the planet will directly impact food systems and the health of vulnerable populations, especially children..
As The Guardian reports:
Unicef argues that, although children are more vulnerable to the effects of global warming, they have been largely left out of the debate. "We are hurtling towards a future where the gains being made for the world's children are threatened and their health, wellbeing, livelihoods and survival are compromised … despite being the least responsible for the causes," said David Bull, Unicef's UK executive director. "We need to listen to them."
Children born last year will come of age in 2030, by which time the effects of climate change in the form of an increase in droughts, floods and storms are likely to be more in evidence. In the 10 most vulnerable countries, including Bangladesh, India and the Philippines, there are 620 million children under 18.
Unicef estimates that 25 million more children will suffer malnourishment because of climate change, with a further 100 million suffering food insecurity, where they and their families are on the verge of running out. Children among the 150-200 million people estimated to have to flee their homes because of climate change will suffer more than adults because of their relative lack of resources and higher vulnerability to disease. In heatwaves, likely to grow more intense and frequent under climate change, babies and small children are more likely to die or suffer heatstroke because they find it difficult to regulate their body heat.
Highlighting evidence from around the world, the report offered numerous examples of how extreme weather and climate change have a had direct impact on food productivity and price:
  • In 2012 the drought in Russia cut the grain harvest by nearly 25 per cent, causing domestic prices of grain and bread to rocket. Oxfam research shows that the cumulative effects of the 2010 and 2012 droughts have driven many farmers into significant debt.
  • In Pakistan the devastating 2010 flood destroyed over 570,000 hectares of crop land in Punjab and affected more than 20 million people. Eighty per cent of food reserves were lost. The destruction of crops and drowning of animals meant not only that people had nothing to eat, but that they had nothing to trade to be able to buy food as it became available. The flood caused a massive 75% reduction in income across all households affected.
  • A recent climate attribution study has confirmed that the 2011 drought in East Africawhich affected over 13 million people and led to a famine in Somalia was more likely to have occurred because of climate change.
  • In Nepal, Oxfam field surveys showed how disruption to the monsoons is creating further pressure on men to migrate leaving women alone to look after their families and having to undertake more daily waged labour reducing their energy levels. Women often also eat last prioritizing the men and children so they can fall into a downward spiral of poor diet, health and loss of strength and energy.
  • In 2012 the US Midwest experienced its worst drought in 50 years, which reduced the expected maize crop by 25 per cent. This contributed to global maize prices rising by around 40 per cent.
Ahead of the pending news sure to follow the IPPC's report on Friday, Oxfam's Gore concluded: “Leaders listening to the latest findings from climate scientists this week must remember that a hot world is a hungry world. They must take urgent action to slash emissions and direct more resources to building a sustainable food system.”


Ecological 'Wake-Up' Call Counters Corporate-Friendly 'Free' Trade

Report from UN body on sustainable agriculture stands 'in stark contrast to the accelerated push for new free trade agreements, including the TPP'

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer
(Photo: Ivan Muñoz/Oxfam/cc/flickr)The world needs to "wake up before it is too late" and usher in a paradigm shift in agriculture that moves away from industrial agriculture in favor of “mosaics of sustainable regenerative production system" that favor small-scale farmers and local food production, a new report from a UN body states.
However, the call from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) flies in the face of the goals laid out by trade deals now being negotiated including the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership.
The report—Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate (pdf)—was written with contributions from over 60 experts, and finds that "urgent and far-reaching action" is needed to address the "collective crisis" of "rural poverty, persistent hunger around the world, growing populations, and mounting environmental concerns."
The UNCTAD report was welcomed by groups who have long advocated for agroecological approaches, including GRAIN, La Via Campesina and the ETC Group.
“Long before the release of this report, small farmers around the world were already convinced that we absolutely need a diversified agriculture to guarantee a balanced local food production, the protection of people's livelihoods and the respect of nature,” Elizabeth Mpofu, general coordinator of La Via Campesina, said in a statement.
However, as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) points out, the approaches the report advocates are incompatible with the free trade agreements like the TPP.  In its contribution to the report, IATP
focused on the effects of trade liberalization on agriculture systems. We argued that trade liberalization both at the WTO and in regional deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had increased volatility and corporate concentration in agriculture markets, while undermining the development of locally-based, agroecological systems that better support farmers.
The report’s findings are in stark contrast to the accelerated push for new free trade agreements, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which expand a long discredited model of economic development designed primarily to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy. Neither global climate talks nor other global food security forums reflect the urgency expressed in the UNCTAD report to transform agriculture.
Ulrich Hoffman, senior trade policy adviser at UNCTAD, also noted the barriers trade policies have on achieving the "truly ecological intensification" transformation laid out in the report.  The Guardian reported that
Hoffman acknowledged it would be difficult to implement the agenda the report was suggesting. "Subsidies are a key hurdle … at a national level but also [in terms of] dealing with subsidies in the context of the WTO [World Trade Organization]," he said. There must be more scrutiny of agricultural subsidies, he argued, including those that appear to promote environmentally sustainable farming, as there were "ample opportunities for abuse or misuse."
In addition, the report notes that resilient agricultural practices can play a significant role "in dealing with resource scarcities and in mitigating and adapting to climate change."  But these kinds of soil-building, organic practices are not those fostered by free trade deals that support giant agribusiness firms that use monocultures and industrial farming.
“We cannot solve the climate crisis without confronting the industrial food system and the corporations behind it," stated Henk Hobbelink of GRAIN, which also contributed to the study.
Peasant farmers group La Via Campesina was among a number of ecological farming advocates who stated that "to confront the climate emergency we need to dismantle the WTO and the free trade regime." The groups wrote:
These export-oriented economies also bleed Mother Nature in order to exploit the most out of it provoking disruptions in the environment as we are seeing now with climate change, biodiversity loss and the destruction of ecosystems. This is the capitalist logic – nature is just a thing to be exploited for profit.
The real beneficiaries of this [sic] imbalanced trade rules of the WTO are the transnational corporations since in reality, they are the ones that have more “comparative advantages” than fledgling national and domestic infant industries. In a world of free trade flows - as the WTO aspires – transnational corporations are free to enter and move between countries, choosing those with cheap labor and relaxed regulations and at the same time able to exit and move out just as easily after it has exhausted and grabbed the natural resources, leaving in several cases, their toxic waste.

Monday, September 23, 2013

NYT - Single largest threat to AGRICULTURE: ROUNDUP -reminder from 2010 piece...

Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds

Christopher Berkey for The New York Times
Jason Hamlin, a certified crop adviser and agronomist, looks for weeds resistant to glyphosate in Dyersburg, Tenn.

DYERSBURG, Tenn. — For 15 years, Eddie Anderson, a farmer, has been a strict adherent of no-till agriculture, an environmentally friendly technique that all but eliminates plowing to curb erosion and the harmful runoff of fertilizers and pesticides.


Invasion of the Superweeds

Michael Pollan and others on what Roundup-resistant weeds mean for American agriculture.

But not this year.
On a recent afternoon here, Mr. Anderson watched as tractors crisscrossed a rolling field — plowing and mixing herbicides into the soil to kill weeds where soybeans will soon be planted.
Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds.
To fight them, Mr. Anderson and farmers throughout the East, Midwest and South are being forced to spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing.
“We’re back to where we were 20 years ago,” said Mr. Anderson, who will plow about one-third of his 3,000 acres of soybean fields this spring, more than he has in years. “We’re trying to find out what works.”
Farm experts say that such efforts could lead to higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs and more pollution of land and water.
“It 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.
The first resistant species to pose a serious threat to agriculture was spotted in a Delaware soybean field in 2000. Since then, the problem has spread, with 10 resistant species in at least 22 states infesting millions of acres, predominantly soybeans, cotton and corn.
The superweeds could temper American agriculture’s enthusiasm for some genetically modified crops. Soybeans, corn and cotton that are engineered to survive spraying with Roundup have become standard in American fields. However, if Roundup doesn’t kill the weeds, farmers have little incentive to spend the extra money for the special seeds.
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.
Now, Roundup-resistant weeds like horseweed and giant ragweed are forcing farmers to go back to more expensive techniques that they had long ago abandoned.
Mr. Anderson, the farmer, is wrestling with a particularly tenacious species of glyphosate-resistant pest called Palmer amaranth, or pigweed, whose resistant form began seriously infesting farms in western Tennessee only last year.
Pigweed can grow three inches a day and reach seven feet or more, choking out crops; it is so sturdy that it can damage harvesting equipment. In an attempt to kill the pest before it becomes that big, Mr. Anderson and his neighbors are plowing their fields and mixing herbicides into the soil.
That threatens to reverse one of the agricultural advances bolstered by the Roundup revolution: minimum-till farming. By combining Roundup and Roundup Ready crops, farmers did not have to plow under the weeds to control them. That reduced erosion, the runoff of chemicals into waterways and the use of fuel for tractors.
If frequent plowing becomes necessary again, “that is certainly a major concern for our environment,” Ken Smith, a weed scientist at the University of Arkansas, said. In addition, some critics of genetically engineered crops say that the use of extra herbicides, including some old ones that are less environmentally tolerable than Roundup, belies the claims made by the biotechnology industry that its crops would be better for the environment.
“The biotech industry is taking us into a more pesticide-dependent agriculture when they’ve always promised, and we need to be going in, the opposite direction,” said Bill Freese, a science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety in Washington.
So far, weed scientists estimate that the total amount of United States farmland afflicted by Roundup-resistant weeds is relatively small — seven million to 10 million acres, according to Ian Heap, director of the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds, which is financed by the agricultural chemical industry. There are roughly 170 million acres planted with corn, soybeans and cotton, the crops most affected.
Roundup-resistant weeds are also found in several other countries, including Australia, China and Brazil, according to the survey.
Monsanto, which once argued that resistance would not become a major problem, now cautions against exaggerating its impact. “It’s a serious issue, but it’s manageable,” said Rick Cole, who manages weed resistance issues in the United States for the company.
Of course, Monsanto stands to lose a lot of business if farmers use less Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds.
“You’re having to add another product with the Roundup to kill your weeds,” said Steve Doster, a corn and soybean farmer in Barnum, Iowa. “So then why are we buying the Roundup Ready product?”
Monsanto argues that Roundup still controls hundreds of weeds. But the company is concerned enough about the problem that it is taking the extraordinary step of subsidizing cotton farmers’ purchases of competing herbicides to supplement Roundup.
Monsanto and other agricultural biotech companies are also developing genetically engineered crops resistant to other herbicides.
Bayer is already selling cotton and soybeans resistant to glufosinate, another weedkiller. Monsanto’s newest corn is tolerant of both glyphosate and glufosinate, and the company is developing crops resistant to dicamba, an older pesticide. Syngenta is developing soybeans tolerant of its Callisto product. And Dow Chemical is developing corn and soybeans resistant to 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange, the defoliant used in the Vietnam War.
Still, scientists and farmers say that glyphosate is a once-in-a-century discovery, and steps need to be taken to preserve its effectiveness.
Glyphosate “is as important for reliable global food production as penicillin is for battling disease,” Stephen B. Powles, an Australian weed expert, wrote in a commentary in January in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Research Council, which advises the federal government on scientific matters, sounded its own warning last month, saying that the emergence of resistant weeds jeopardized the substantial benefits that genetically engineered crops were providing to farmers and the environment.
Weed scientists are urging farmers to alternate glyphosate with other herbicides. But the price of glyphosate has been falling as competition increases from generic versions, encouraging farmers to keep relying on it.
Something needs to be done, said Louie Perry Jr., a cotton grower whose great-great-grandfather started his farm in Moultrie, Ga., in 1830.
Georgia has been one of the states hit hardest by Roundup-resistant pigweed, and Mr. Perry said the pest could pose as big a threat to cotton farming in the South as the beetle that devastated the industry in the early 20th century.
“If we don’t whip this thing, it’s going to be like the boll weevil did to cotton,” said Mr. Perry, who is also chairman of the Georgia Cotton Commission. “It will take it away.”
William Neuman reported from Dyersburg, Tenn., and Andrew Pollack from Los Angeles.