Herbicide Tolerant (HT) Crops - Applications and Concerns -

Ethical, Legal and Social Issues

Although Herbicide Tolerant crops are a major economic advantage over traditional crops, a large controversy follows them. Below is a list of only a few of the major issues with HT crops.

Ethical Issues

• Poluttion: HT crops leads farmers using excessive amounts of herbicide to kill weeds because there is little risk of killing the HT crops. However an increase in herbicide use causes pollution, groundwater contamination, and carrying risks for human health.


• Gene Flow: Use of HT crops could potentially affect other crops on the farm that are not herbicide resistant, which leads to the danger of transferring the resistant gene.

Picture showing gene flow in plants.

Photo credit here.

Political cartoon showing how Monsanto opposes labeling.

Chris Kelly 1999

Legal Issues

• Patent Life: HT crops can easily cross pollinate with adjacent farms that have crops that are not genetically modified.  Then this leads to questions and concerns about property rights of the unintentionally produced HT crops. 


• Advertisement: Biotechnology companies are also at risk because they are also responsible for false advertisement. Some of these weeds are getting away from what it says on the label will be killed.


• Public: The public demand for the segregation of genetically modified crops, like HT crops and non genetically modified crop, the introduction of identity preservation, and trace the ability in connection to exports and domestic consumption will increase costs for farmers and will result in different prices for the genetically modified and non genetically modified crops in the market.


Labeling: The public wants labeling denoting when food ingredient has been genetically modified. Big corporations like Monsanto are against that because they feel at risk for targeting from consumers.

Social Issues

• Environmental Issues: HT crops leads farmers using excessive amounts of herbicide to kill weeds because there is little risk of killing the HT crops. However an increase in herbicide use causes pollution, groundwater contamination, and carrying risks for human health.


• Super Weeds: According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, HT crops can trigger an evolution of new species of weeds in the field. These weeds become super resistant to the herbicide glyphosphate, the herbicide used in Roundup. Super weeds are overpowering crops and taking over millions of acres of land causing farmers to no longer be able to benefit from the advantages of HT crops. 


• Farmers: Increase costs to control weeds in the field. Yield losses of production, and causes food prices to skyrocket.


• Monopolies: According to the Benefits and risks of the use of herbicide-resistant crops, Multinational agrochemical corporations are taking control of the market and creating a monopoly. A monopoly may lead to the loss of traditional crop varieties and farm management methods. If this were to happen, then the food supply would become vulnerable to slight changes in behavior, like resistance, to pests, insects, and weeds.

Giant Ragweed is one of the newly dangerous HT weeds that is destroying the crop yields of today. 

Photo credit to here.

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