The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a new type of genetically modified corn plant from agricultural company Monsanto. The USDA concluded that the new product is not a threat to other crops, plants or the environment.
With the decision, Monsanto’s Mon 87411 Maize will soon be able to be grown by farmers across the country. The new strain of corn is resistant to rootworm, making it more likely to survive. It can also survive glyphosate, a primary ingredient of the herbicide Roundup.
While the corn isn’t ready to be grown just yet, this is still a major step towards getting it ready to be planted. Agricultural scientists still need to further genetically modify the plant to make it more to their liking. Monsanto hopes that the new corn will be grown within the next five years.
Additionally, more assessments are still needed from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some scientists are worried that by making the corn resistant to herbicides and then using herbicides to kill weeds, the weeds will eventually build up immunities and become more invasive and harder to kill. A very similar situation happened in the 1990s with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn.
The strategy by Monsanto and Syngenta is to make the corn resistant to multiple types of herbicides, since the theory is that weeds won’t be able to resist many types of plant killers.
Still, it’s unknown what the weeds are capable of. If they develop an immunity to virtually every herbicide, then it would be disastrous to the food supply of the United States.
These so called “superweeds” pose a major threat to crops across the country. They are incredibly invasive, and they compete against commercially grown crops. More than 10 million acres of farmland in the United States became infested with the weeds by 2010.
Superweeds are extremely difficult to kill and remove, and they limit the amount of space that farmers can utilize for growing proper crops. This raises the prices of agricultural products, and makes things more costly for farmers. Agricultural companies recognize the issue, and they are doing everything they can to create new strains of crops that remedy the situation.
Meanwhile, Monsanto’s biggest rival, Syngenta, is also working on developing a similar strain of corn. Reports indicate that their new corn will also be able to tolerate glufosinate.
For now, Monsanto will continue to develop its corn plant to make it as survivable and as efficient as possible.