The Hightower Report

Watch Out for Superweeds; and Let's Try Good Government

Watch Out for Superweeds

As an old TV ad used to say: "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."

Monsanto, however, still has not taken Mother's advice. This giant chemical maker became a veritable Frankenstein in the 1990s, genetically engineering new organisms in an effort to fool Mother Nature for fun and profit. But Mama got mad – and now she's kicking Monsanto's butt all across the country.

Here's the background: Monsanto marketed a weed-killer labeled "Roundup" to farmers. But the weed-killer also tended to kill the crops. Thus, Monsanto's mad scientists artificially manipulated the genes of corn, cotton, and soybean seeds to produce crops that – hocus-pocus! – could absorb mega doses of Roundup without croaking. These patented seeds, called "Roundup Ready," helped Monsanto sell oceans of its weed-killer.

But Mother Nature's weeds are smarter than the Frankensteins in Monsanto's labs, and they've quickly evolved into tenacious superweeds that Roundup can't kill. There are now 10 resistant species of these superweeds infesting some 10 million acres in 22 states – and spreading.

Monsanto sold its Roundup Ready seeds as a miracle crop, charged far more for them, and scoffed at concerns that the weeds would adapt. But there they are, and farmers are now having to use extra-toxic herbicides to kill the aggressive mutant weeds that have invaded their fields. The result is higher costs for farmers, lower crop yields, more poisoning of land and water, and a rising chorus of farmers saying, "Some miracle, Monsanto – thanks for nothing!"

All of this because one arrogant, profiteering corporation thought it could fool Mother Nature. As an Arkansas farm leader says of Monsanto's creation of the spreading superweed crisis: "It's the single largest threat to production agriculture we have ever seen."

Let's Try Good Government

If you're an aficionado of ironic justice, try this morsel: On the day that BP's Gulf oil rig blew up, seven of the corporation's executive muckety-mucks happened to be on the platform, having gathered there for a ceremony to tout the project's safety record! They were injured but survived.

Adding to the irony of a safety celebration literally exploding in the face of corporate big wigs is the fact that BP's bosses have been primary pushers of successful lobbying efforts in Washington to water down America's environmental and safety rules. So this epic oil catastrophe is not an accident. It's the inevitable result of industry-government collusion to put Big Oil's profits ahead of human life, ecological vitality, and the economic well-being of others.

Indeed, the Minerals Management Service (the agency that supposedly regulates offshore drilling) has blithely adopted nearly 100 loosey-goosey "rules" that were written by the industry's chief lobbying group. For example, the agency does not require these inherently risky rigs to have a backup shutdown system, as required by other nations with offshore wells. Thus, BP, which soaks up billions of dollars in profits each year, chose not to install a remote-control shutoff valve on this disastrous well, simply because it didn't want to spend the $500,000 it would've cost. Now – because of such ridiculously reckless laissez-faire laxity – BP, the people of the Gulf, and our nation face untold billions of dollars in economic losses, plus unfathomable environmental destruction.

BP's blowout in the Gulf – along with Wall Street's unbridled rampage through our economy and Massey Energy's deadly disregard for mine safety – stands as a monument to mindless anti-government ideology and as a testament to the urgent need for good government.

Don't miss "Swim Against the Current: Highlights From the Jim Hightower Archive," on exhibit currently as part of Texas State's Witliff Collections. Through July 31. Texas State University, San Marcos,

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Monsanto
Willie's Reserve
Willie's Reserve
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real pull from the family joint

Tim Stegall, June 26, 2015

Big Food Ideas
Big Food Ideas
Foodie intellectual Michael Pollan lectures at the Paramount

Jessi Cape, Nov. 2, 2012

More BP
Seeing the Invisible
Seeing the Invisible
Margaret Brown dives headfirst into the BP Gulf oil tragedy

Kate X Messer, March 7, 2014

BPness: Louisiana's Beleaguered Coast
BPness: Louisiana's Beleaguered Coast
A snapshot of life since the spill

Kate X Messer, June 25, 2010

More The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The Donald Show

Jim Hightower, July 10, 2015

The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The damning nuttiness of the GOP's "Hell No" faction

Jim Hightower, Aug. 15, 2014


Monsanto, BP, Roundup, Minerals Management Service, Gulf oil spill

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle