Superweeds: An Emerging Threat

Superweeds are weeds that have built up a resistance to the effects of herbicides used in agriculture to kill them. Weeds such as marestail (horseweed) and palmer amaranth (pigweed) are rapidly growing problems for farmers, pushing them to apply more herbicides, like 2, 4-D and Roundup, more often. These products have been shown to harm human health and the environment and their increased use is a step in the wrong direction.


Superweeds also pose a threat to the overall biodiversity of our landscape. When we increase the use of herbicides that have a limited effect on the weeds targeted, we inadvertently decrease the populations of other natural flora
and fauna that provide great benefit to the environment, such as Milkweed (an essential food source for the monarch butterfly) and the northern leopard frog.

The development of superweeds is directly related to the planting of herbicide resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops such as Roundup Ready Corn and Soybeans. They allow for the application of high concentrations of powerful herbicides.  Genetically engineered crops were initially created with the goal of reducing the use of herbicides. However, over the years, they have had the opposite effect. The use of glyphosphate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has increased by 26% (81.2 million pounds) between 2001 and 2010.

The use of GE crops resistant to herbicides has created a vicious cycle – the over application of herbicides, leading to the evolution of herbicide resistant superweeds, leading to even more application of herbicides. This needs to stop and it’s time to take action to protect the well-being of our communities and the environment.

Here are some things you can do to help combat the superweed epidemic.

–          Support Illinois bill SB 1666 requiring the labeling of GE products at Food and Water Watch.

–          Promote biodiversity and alternatives to harmful pesticides by choosing organic products.

–          Learn more about the superweed crisis here.

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