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Monster weeds: It’s all a plot by evil chemical companies (not!)

An 8foot crop weed with a stem as thick as a baseball bat So says a major metropolitan newspaper
<p><em><strong>An 8-foot crop weed with a stem as thick as a baseball bat? So says a major metropolitan newspaper.</strong></em></p>

One can only wonder if it is not somehow wired into our genetic makeup, the willingness with which we accept the existence of conspiracies.

Books, TV series, and movies galore feature evildoers — more often than not in positions of power — plotting to seize control of the government (a cabal is a recurring theme) or corporate barons hatching schemes detrimental to the citizenry.

With the advent of the Internet and a potential worldwide audience for anyone with a Web connection, conspiracy theorists have flourished: The government is going to take this or that from us, pharmaceutical companies are suppressing a cure for this or that disease, and on and on.

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The dismaying aspect is that a vast percentage of these treacherous, seditious scenarios almost never include who originated them, yet they’re forwarded endlessly with no attempt by most recipients to look behind the claims to determine if there is the remotest factual basis — they just hit “forward” and spread the fiction.

Agriculture has become a fertile ground for conspiracists, who alas, often include some in the mainstream media who employ misrepresentation or exaggeration to make a story more dramatic or credible. This example from a recent lengthy article in a major metropolitan newspaper: “…overuse of Roundup on genetically modified crops has spawned weeds that can survive spraying to grow 8 feet tall, with stems as thick as baseball bats” (italics mine).

Well, any farmer across the Sunbelt knows it’s no challenge for a pigweed to grow 8 feet tall in a season, irrespective of whether it has been sprayed with a herbicide. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen any crop weed with a stem as thick as a baseball bat. Yet, the average urbanite reading that sentence will think, “Ye gods! Monster weeds are running rampant, and it’s all the fault of those dastardly chemical companies.”

The same story implies that “the Obama administration’s EPA” has given chemical companies a pass on health and environmental safety requirements for new herbicides, when the agriculture community knows all too well the almost insurmountable hurdles any new product faces on the years-long road to winning approval by the EPA.

But monster weeds and government subterfuge make a better story for an uninformed public than how farmers are first and foremost protectors of the land and environment in which they and their families live and work. 

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