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Herbicide-resistant crops and weed resistance to herbicides


  • Paper presented at the Symposium ‘Herbicide-resistant crops from biotechnology: current and future status’ held by the Agrochemicals Division of the American Chemical Society at the 227th National Meeting, Anaheim, CA, 29–30 March, 2004, to mark the presentation of the International Award for Research in Agrochemicals to Dr Stephen O Duke.


The adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops has increased dramatically during the last 3 years, and currently over 52 million hectares of GM crops are planted world-wide. Approximately 41 million hectares of GM crops planted are herbicide-resistant crops, which includes an estimated 33.3 million hectares of herbicide-resistant soybean. Herbicide-resistant maize, canola, cotton and soybean accounted for 77% of the GM crop hectares in 2001. However, sugarbeet, wheat, and as many as 14 other crops have transgenic herbicide-resistant cultivars that may be commercially available in the near future. There are many risks associated with the production of GM and herbicide-resistant crops, including problems with grain contamination, segregation and introgression of herbicide-resistant traits, marketplace acceptance and an increased reliance on herbicides for weed control. The latter issue is represented in the occurrence of weed population shifts, the evolution of herbicide-resistant weed populations and herbicide-resistant crops becoming volunteer weeds. Another issue is the ecological impact that simple weed management programs based on herbicide-resistant crops have on weed communities. Asiatic dayflower (Commelina cumminus L) common lambsquarters (Chenopodium album L) and wild buckwheat (Polygonum convolvulus L) are reported to be increasing in prominence in some agroecosystems due to the simple and significant selection pressure brought to bear by herbicide-resistant crops and the concomitant use of the herbicide. Finally, evolution of herbicide-resistant weed populations attributable to the herbicide-resistant crop/herbicide program has been observed. Examples of herbicide-resistant weeds include populations of horseweed (Conyza canadensis (L) Cronq) resistant to N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine (glyphosate). An important question is whether or not these problems represent significant economic issues for future agriculture. Copyright © 2005 Society of Chemical Industry

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