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NYT’s Article About Superweeds is a Stunning Acknowledgement that GMO Agriculture is a Complete Failure

(Photo of Palmer amaranth "superweeds" -- courtesy of The New York Times)

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Several weeks ago, The New York Times wrote a jaw-dropping story called “Attack of the Superweeds: Herbicides are losing the war — and agriculture might never be the same again.” This piece reaffirmed what all of us in organic have known for a long time; that GMOs and their accompanying pesticides — which includes herbicides and insecticides — comprise an agricultural platform that just doesn’t work.

And to have one of the country’s most influential newspapers acknowledge this is an incredibly momentous occasion, something that should not go unnoticed by anyone.

The story centers around superweeds. These are weeds that have been sprayed with highly toxic chemicals over many years. Yet, instead of dying off, they have gone in the opposite direction — adapted, become stronger and grown impervious to whatever herbicides are sprayed on them, thereby earning the moniker “superweeds.” As the NYT points out, we have reached a point where the chemical companies have completely run out of answers, and no savior product is in development. There is nothing left. It’s over.

For Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety, none of this comes as a surprise.

“There was a myth that we could eradicate the weeds, pests, bugs and fungi permanently and that this strategy was viable for industrial agriculture. It was based on a 2nd-grade science class delusion, which worked in a surprisingly effective manner for farmers, the media and corporations. However, it was completely flawed from the outset, and the entire basis for industrial agriculture is now falling apart. This is the beginning of the end.”

Industry experts believe that this proverbial beginning of the end was because of dicamba, a super-toxic herbicide that has caused immeasurable harm and torn apart the social fabric of farming communities across the country.

Not only does it destroy off-target crops, but it is very volatile and is not easily controlled when sprayed. This herbicide is so dangerous that some farmers are forced into planting dicamba-resistant crops because it is their only means of protection when their farms are inevitably damaged from the chemical being sprayed by their neighbors.

In Arkansas alone this past summer, 650,000 acres of soybeans were damaged by dicamba. Similar issues are have been playing out throughout the South and Midwest over many years, including the reported 3.6 million acres of soybean crops not genetically engineered to resist the notoriously drift-prone herbicide that were damaged in 2017. The acrimony has been so strident that an Arkansas man shot a fellow farmer because of dicamba contamination and was sentenced to 24 years in prison for murder.

Amidst the millions of acres of contamination and state plant boards fielding thousands of complaints, the 9th Circuit of Appeals overturned the EPA’s approval of dicamba in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Food Safety and other groups.

“This dicamba case is about herbicide drift, the unsustainability of the GMO seed and pesticide package, and the nightmare it is causing to our agricultural system,” said George Kimbrell, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety. “The New York Times can’t ignore it anymore, and it is no coincidence that the newspaper referenced this case in the very first sentence of its article.”


While The New York Times does mention a few very low-probability, non-chemical solutions to deal with superweeds, such as gene-drive projects, it doesn’t specifically suggest what many of us believe is the only true answer to invasive weeds and pests: organic and regenerative farming.

But getting conventional farmers to make this switch will not be an easy endeavor, particularly since it requires a completely different skill set and transitioning to organic takes three years. Furthermore, as long as conventional farmers are not experiencing total crop failure and can generate some profits, albeit less than what they had been making in the past, many will continue with the same process.

Industry observers caution that farmers should not be the only ones to blame for this situation.

“We are all responsible for what is happening,” put forth Léa Vereecke, Midwest Organic Crop Consultant at Rodale Institute. “Consumers want cheap food, which means using herbicides from Big Ag. We all could have done more, such as eating a more diversified diet and asking politicians to stop subsidizing corn.”

In the end, however, the NYT story is an admission of an evolutionary truth that can no longer be denied.

“This will force everyone to transform industrial ag to a system that is mutually enhancing. We must be in partnership with nature, not trying to eradicate it,” said Andrew Kimbrell.

With gratitude,

Max Goldberg, Founder

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This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

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With Danone citing growing transportation and operational challenges in the industry, this decision will cause immeasurable harm to organic dairy farmers and their communities throughout New England and New York.

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The pandemic has changed how companies provide a taste of their products to shoppers.


Biome Makers raises $15M To Become the 23andMe of Soil

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The company uses DNA sequencing and “intelligent computing” to help farmers and companies analyze the microbiome in their soil to make more sustainable and economical choices.

Second Course

Urban Remedy CEO on Scaling an Ultra-Fresh Food Business Nationally

Paul Coletta, Urban Remedy's CEO, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the organic food company’s latest fundraising round and its ready-to-eat meals, juices, cleanses and snacks.

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Private Equity Firm takes a Controlling Stake in Simply Organic Beauty

West Lane Capital Partners, in partnership with J.P. Morgan Asset Management's private equity group, has acquired a majority interest in Simply Organic Beauty.


The Supply Chain Is In Crisis. How Do We Move Forward?

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A look at commodity prices, structural issues with logistics and the current set of practices that led us to this situation.

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Inside Google’s Regenerative Agriculture Play

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Michiel Bakker, vice president of global workplace programs at Google, discusses Regen1.

The Verge

The Farmers Market is Moving Online

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The pandemic brought rampant growth for local food distribution platforms.


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Organic producers and handlers can now apply for USDA funds to assist with the cost of receiving or maintaining organic certification.

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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* Eversea, which has developed the world’s first algae-based, certified organic omega-3 DHA, has signed a partnership with OrgHive, China’s leading digital and e-commerce platform for organic consumers.

* Dr. Bronner’s has released its 2021 All One! Report, the company’s annual report detailing its business practices, sustainability programs and commitment to organic and fair trade sourcing.

* Thrive Market opened a new fulfillment center in Pennsylvania, which enables one-day, carbon-neutral shipping for customers in the Northeast.

* Upcycled salmon snack maker Goodfish has named outdoor adventurer and survivalist Bear Grylls as co-founder.

* Organic Valley has been stacking up the awards lately.

* Personnel Moves: Ari Raz, co-founder of Once Upon a Farm, has joined The Coconut Cult as its new CEO. Farmer Focus hired James Beard nominee Sean McLendon as its new head of research and development.

* In New Hope’s latest Buyerside Chat, Debra Stark, owner of Debra’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, MA, discusses what makes her notice a brand at Natural Products Expos.

* Natural Grocers is honoring Organic Harvest Month this September with a fundraising partnership with Beyond Pesticides.

* SunOpta’s new facility in Texas to produce plant-based milks will have a footprint of 285,000 square feet, with room to expand to 400,000 square feet. Wow!

* Northstar and Organic Spa Media have partnered to create a wellness-travel platform.

* I wonder how long it takes before some very progressive organic food brand hires a chief wellness officer.

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