Nature has a funny way of always coming on top and the Amaranth plant is a perfect example. Amaranth is showing the biotech giant you can’t mess with nature without consequences.
A Superstar of the Plant Kingdom
Approximately 60 species are recognized and each plant produces about 12,000 seeds per year, with the leaves containing an abundance of vitamins and minerals. It has been proposed as an inexpensive native crop that could be cultivated by indigenous people in rural areas for several reasons:
– It is easily harvested.
– Its seeds are a good source of protein. Compared to other grains, amaranth is unusually rich in the essential amino acid lysine and some dieticians have argued that amaranth protein in higher than that of cow’s milk and far richer than soy.
-The seeds of Amaranthus species contain about thirty percent more protein than cereals like rice, sorghum and rye.
-It is easy to cook. As befits its weedy life history, amaranth grains grow very rapidly and their large seedheads can weigh up to 1 kilogram and contain a half-million seeds in three species of amaranth.
The Amaranth is a plant well known to our ancestors, since the Incas considered it a sacred plant. Ancient amaranth grains were cultivated on a large scale in ancient Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru. In a 1977 article in Science, amaranth was described as “the crop of the future.”
Amaranth Is Fighting the GMO Battle Like No Other
Besides the incredible nutritional benefits which nature has bestowed upon the human race with Amaranth, it appears it also knows how to fight GMO manipulation.
Studies began documenting weed resistance several years ago but the problem continues to mount, with The New York Times warning of the “Rise of the Superweeds” analogous to that of the ‘superbugs’ in medicine. But nature only does what its designed to do.
Kept as a very secretive incident, in 2004 the first farmers noticed that some of amaranth seedlings were resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup ready technology as they generously generously sprayed their soybean plants.
It turns out the amaranth seed received a resistance gene for Roundup.
Since then, the phenomenon has spread to other states: South Carolina, and northern Arkansas, and Missouri Tenesse.
“There’s no question, we have a lot of problems in the Southeast,” York said. “For us, the horse is already out of the barn. For the Mid-South, you don’t want to go down this path we’re on right now.”
On July 25, 2005, the Guardian published an article by Paul Brown, who revealed that the modified genes were passed to the natural plants, creating a seed resistant to herbicides.
It was is confirmed by experts at CEH (center for ecology and hydrology), and the finding contradicting claims of Monsanto and pro-GM scientists who always claimed that hybridization between a genetically modified plant, and natural plant was impossible.
“The epicenter of glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed is Macon County, Ga. That site is now 70 percent to 80 percent resistant and over 10,000 acres were abandoned in 2007,” said Bob Nichols with Cotton Incorporated.
Palmer amaranth is suspected to be resistant on 300,000 acres in 20 counties in Georgia; 130,000 acres in nine counties in South Carolina; 200,000 acres in 22 counties in North Carolina.
Resistant weeds to Roundup ready are making rethink their strategies and forcing them to go back to being weed managers.
“It only takes one successful crossing over millions of possibilities. Once it is created, the new plant has a huge selective advantage and multiplies rapidly. The powerful herbicide used here, based on glyphosate and ammonium exerted on plants enormous pressure which further increased the speed of adaptation,” said British geneticist Brian Johnson, specializing in issues related to agriculture.
It seems Monsanto may have long ago anticipated the inevitable failure of the devious combo of genetically modified seeds plus Roundup. The company started experimenting with a ‘souped-up’ Roundup over 10 years ago, to manage the problem of superweeds. Not that this is today any consolation to the farmers who are suffering from the expense of buying costly products that do not work, leaving them with lower crop yields.
Indeed, Monsanto’s own website includes instructions encouraging farmers to mix glyphosate and older (i.e., leftover) herbicides such as 2,4-D, a herbicide which was banned in Sweden, Denmark and Norway over its links to cancer, reproductive harm and mental impairment. 2,4-D is also well known for being a component of Agent Orange, a toxin used in chemical warfare in Vietnam in the 1960s. Imagine that, Agent Orange finally coming home to fight the superweeds: a dark sequel to Vietnam in the making?
The only solution some farmers have left is pulling amaranth plants by hand. Since the plant is rooted very deeply, it makes it almost impossible to achieve this solution.
More and more U.S. farmers are forgoing the use of GMO plants, first because there expensive increases yearly, and the cost is required in agriculture and elsewhere, and finally because the effectiveness of GMOs is questionable in light of what is happening around the world and a consequence to GM seed planting.
GMO seeds are simply disappearing from catalogs as morefarmers now returning to traditional farming.
“The amaranth is a kind of boomerang returned by nature Monsanto,” said Sylvie Simon. “It neutralizes the predator and settled in places where it can feed humanity in times of famine. It supports most climates, as well as areas dry monsoon and tropical highland regions and has no problems with either insects or diseases with so will never need chemical products.”