Herbicide Tolerant (HT) Crops - Applications and Concerns -

Biotech Innovators and Economic Impact

Major corporations began the HT crop revolution and have maintained solid control of it, but that doesn't necessarily mean that's a bad thing. Both Monsanto and Bayer have saved farmers not only time but money, and the Herbicide Tolerant crop bandwagon is increasing.

Monsanto® Company paved the way of the rapid growth of the Herbicide Tolerant Crop industry.

Bayer's Liberty Link with Ignite (or Liberty, as it was renamed) Resistance Crops is the only rivaling HT crop on the market against Monsanto's Round Up Ready crops.

The Key Innovators in the HT Crop Field 

In 1996, when Monsanto's new patent came out for a new glyosulfate herbicide tolerant soybean, called the Round Up Ready Soybean, it really began the HT crop revolutions. Glyosulfate, the active ingredient in already famous non-selective herbicide Round Up, normally cripples most plants, both crops and weeds, effectively. But now with Round Up Ready, you could spray your crop with a non-selective herbicide and not loose your crop to the herbicide. As Monsanto began to gain more power and spread their Round Up Ready technology to other cash crops, Bayer released their new Liberty Link crops. Liberty Link is resistant to glyophosphate herbicide, and became a major competitor to Monsanto. But since then, much of the market has been monopolized by 2 companies. No other major corporation has released another HT crop on the market, and is not expected to until 2016. But in 2014, Monsanto's Round Up Ready gene technology will go public, and many other companies can now use this gene in combination with their own (in a process called genetic stacking). Until that time, the only innovations we will see in the HT crop field since induction is the spread of the resistance gene to more and more crops. Right now, HT crops are in alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, sorghum, sugar beets, wheat and of course soybeans, and both Bayer and Monsanto are trying to expand that number.

Economic Impact

This new innovation in Agricultural Biotechnology has been of great economical help to farms of all sizes. This is economic boost is due to many reasons. The first is increased crop yield. Since the dawn of time where humans planted the first field until the mid 1990's, unwanted weeds have taken the cash crops room, nutrients, water and sunlight, which reduces the expected crop yield by a nice chunk. Now with HT crops, farmers can make more money of their land by spraying a non-selective herbicide that will kill all unwanted plant life, which in effect gives the cash crop more room, nutrients, et cetra. Since the introduction of HT crops, farming yields have increased 5 fold, due to the increased yields worldwide. The use HT crops has also lead to a decrease in price reduction for conventional herbicides.  This allowed for companies that do not use HT crops to remain competitive with the pricing of herbicides used on non HT crops  in the market. Lastly, using only one type of herbicide drastically cuts the farmer's need to buy multiple types of "selective herbicides" or a herbicide that works only on one particular species or family of weed. This has actually reduced overall spraying of herbicide worldwide.

Because of these things, HT farmimg has become increasingly popular. Once only allowed in the United States and Canada, HT crops are now in use in 22 different countries, 14 of which are "biotech mega-counties". These counties include Argentina, Brazil, India, China and more, and it is spreading like wildfire to the rest of the world.

A picture of the spread of HT crops worldwide.

Picture credit here.

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