‘Rust, Resistance, Run Down Soils, and Rising Costs – Problems Facing Soybean Producers in Argentina’

Within the last 10 years, Argentina’s agricultural production system has become dominated by one crop: the genetically engineered Roundup Ready (RR) soybean developed by Monsanto. During this period, the soybean industry has flourished. But signs of trouble are now emerging and the ‘honeymoon period’ is coming to a close both in the US and in Argentina. In a new report entitled ‘Rust, Resistance, Run Down Soils, and Rising Costs – Problems Facing Soybean Producers in Argentina’, agronomist Charles Benbrook warns that the planting of 14 million hectares (34 million acres) of a single, genetically homogenous crop in Argentina has created a highly vulnerable agricultural production system.He noted that with the expansion of RR soybean, the use of glyphosate herbicides has also increased. Years of reliance on the herbicides have resulted in the accelerated emergence of weeds that are tolerant to herbicides. Given the steady increase in the intensity of glyphosate use in Argentina, it is inevitable that herbicide resistant weeds will emerge.He also noted that a number of insects have emerged that cause sufficient damage to soya beans in some regions so as to require insecticides applications. The emergence of soybean rust disease may trigger the widespread use of fungicides, and as in the case of the application of glyphosate, will change soil microbial communities. Crop yields are threatened as pests well-adapted to life in RR soybean fields evolve and become established. Cost of production is rising as farmers face the need to replace soil nutrients removed with the crop each season.To respond to these changes he suggests that immediate steps need to be taken to reduce reliance on the herbicide glyphosate and diversify cropping patterns and tillage and planting systems.The massive production of RR soybean in Argentina also has its social consequences. In the wake of the rush to expand soybean production, millions of people and communities are displaced to make room for the growing of millions of hectares of RR soybean. Land once used for food crops production is converted into soybean fields, threatening food security. Ecosystems that are rich of biodiversity are also not spared, as million of hectares of forest areas are also converted into soybean production.

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