Monsanto Spraying Itself

Tom Philpott asks in Grist about Why Monsanto is paying farmers to spray its rivals’ herbicides
…Monsanto has been forced into the unenviable position of having to pay farmers to spray the herbicides of rival companies.

If you tend large plantings of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” soy or cotton, genetically engineered to withstand application of the company’s Roundup herbicide (which will kill the weeds — supposedly — but not the crops), Monsanto will cut you a $6 check for every acre on which you apply at least two other herbicides. One imagines farmers counting their cash as literally millions of acres across the South and Midwest get doused with Monsanto-subsidized poison cocktails.

The move is the latest step in the abject reversal of Monsanto’s longtime claim: that Roundup Ready technology solved the age-old problem of weeds in an ecologically benign way.

Roundup, trade name for glysophate, doesn’t work anymore because the weeds mutated:
There was just one problem, which the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out as early as 1993, New York University nutritionist and food-politics author Marion Nestle recently reminded us. When farmers douse the same field year after year with the same herbicide, certain weeds will develop resistance. When they do, it will take ever-larger doses of that herbicide to kill them — making the survivors even hardier. Eventually, it will be time to bring in in the older, harsher herbicides to do the trick, UCS predicted.
Yeah, but that doesn’t work either. Not even paraquat kills Roundup-mutated pigweed. Going back to 2,4-D won’t, either. The only thing that does is pulling up the weeds, plowing them under, or cutting them off with cultivators.

And remember this:

Moreover, Monsanto promised, Roundup was less toxic to humans and wildlife than the herbicides then in use; and it allowed farmers to decrease erosion by dramatically reducing tillage — a common method of weed control.
Well, it’s just not true:
Meanwhile, the endlessly repeated claim that Roundup Ready technology saves “millions of tons” of soil from erosion, by allowing farmers to avoid tilling to kill weeds, appears to be wildly trumped up. According to Environmental Working Group’s reading of the USDA’s 2007 National Resource Inventory, “there has been no progress in reducing soil erosion in the Corn Belt since 1997.” (The Corn Belt is the section of the Midwest where the great bulk of Roundup Ready corn and soy are planted.) “The NRI shows that an average-sized Iowa farm loses five tons of high quality topsoil per acre each year,” EWG writes.

There is an answer, cleverly code-named “deep-till”. What’s that? Plowing, planting winter cover crops, and cultivating.

But what does Monsanto continue to promote instead?

…we have the spectacle of Monsanto paying farmers to dump vast chemical cocktails onto land that not only feeds us, but also drains into our streams and rivers.
And the farmers doing that aren’t even making money off of it; not compared to the more profitable path of not growing Monsanto’s seeds.