Fighting GM foods, and the weeds they cause

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PRI's Living on Earth reported on the Center for Food Safety. For more, listen to the audio above.

Roundup pesticides, created by the chemical giant Monsanto, have become nearly ubiquitous in American agriculture over the past 20 years. An estimated 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn grown in the United States are Roundup Ready crops—plants that have been genetically modified to tolerate the chemical.

These pesticides aren't able to fight weeds as well as they once did, according to the New York Times. Roundup-resistant strains of "superweeds" are now invading farms, potentially choking out crops and damaging harvesting equipment. Farms may soon resort to more environmentally disruptive tactics including extra herbicides and labor-intensive plowing, both of which could lead to serious spikes in food prices.

"The biotech industry is taking us into a more pesticide-dependent agriculture when they’ve always promised, and we need to be going in, the opposite direction," Bill Freese, a science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, told the New York Times.

The Center for Food Safety, which represents a coalition of seed farms, non-profits, and environmental groups, has been fighting against Roundup Ready crops for years. On April 27, the group argued in front of the Supreme Court that the genetically modified alfalfa poses irreparable ecological harm.

The case "boils down to three things: farmers, fairness and freedom to choose," Garrett Kasper of Monsanto told PRI's "Living on Earth." Kasper believes that farmers should have the choice to plant genetically modified crops, if they want.

The Center for Food Safety's George Kimbrell disagrees. He told "Living on Earth" that Monsanto is robbing people of their right to choose non-genetically modified foods. The Center is trying to force Monsanto to prepare environmental impact statements before selling the genetically modified alfalfa.

The battle in the Supreme Court should be decided in the next few months. The battle over genentically modified crops, and the Roundup-resistant "superweeds" they cause, won't likely end as quickly.

Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth."