Genetically-modified herbicide-resistant (GMHR) crops a two-edged sword? An Americas perspective on development and effect on weed management.

Beckie, H.J. and Hall, L.M. (2014). "Genetically-modified herbicide-resistant (GMHR) crops a two-edged sword? An Americas perspective on development and effect on weed management.", Crop Protection, 66, pp. 40-45. doi : 10.1016/j.cropro.2014.08.014  Access to full text

Abstract

GMHR crops have been cultivated in the Americas for nearly 20 years. Prior to release, regulators asked the question, “will herbicide selection pressure for evolution of HR weeds increase significantly as a result of GMHR crop cultivation?” In hindsight, they could not have imagined the rapid, widespread adoption of glyphosate-resistant (GR) crops and subsequent chain of events: surge in glyphosate usage at the expense of other herbicides, sharp drop in investment in herbicide discovery, unrelenting rise of GR and multiple-HR weed populations, and increasing herbicide use in GMHR cropping systems. In this brief review, we outline grower adoption of GMHR soybean, maize, cotton, and oilseed rape (canola) in the Americas, and their impact on herbicide-use practices for weed management. Cultivars with stacked-HR traits (e.g., glyphosate + glufosinate + dicamba or 2,4-D) will provide a short-term respite from HR weeds, but will perpetuate the chemical treadmill and selection of multiple-HR weeds. The only sustainable solution is for government or end-users of commodities to set herbicide-use reduction targets in our major field crops similar to European Union member states, and include financial incentives or penalties in agricultural programs to support this policy. Concomitantly, industry incentives must expand to improve grower adoption of best management practices for HR weeds. New or emerging technologies will provide additional tools for reactive HR weed management in the future, but their time of arrival is uncertain.

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