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Weeds, herbicides, food and humans

To the editor: Your editorial comparing antibiotic resistance in animals to herbicide resistance in weeds misrepresents a very old problem. ("Escalating the weed wars," Editorial, Sept. 29)

Most of the advances on the horizon that you think should be slowed are actually designed to effectively reduce the emergence of resistant traits in weed populations and were designed in response to advances in our understanding of the genetic basis for resistance. Without new science-driven formulations and precision techniques, crop yields fall and land use rises.

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Growers who use the latest biotechnology and the most precise techniques are definitely the people we want growing our food. We are fortunate to have the most comprehensive, science-based regulatory approval process in the world.

Slowing the race and sticking with old ways may sound as if it's good for the environment, but it isn't. The biggest threat to environmental protection efforts and safe food production we face right now is quickly becoming pseudo-environmentalism.

J. Nicholas Nisson, Tustin

The writer is an entomologist.

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To the editor: It is gratifying to see that a leading national newspaper is printing the logical truth about an agricultural chemical industry that is rapidly dooming its own products for short-term gains.

The stacked gene technology is a quick but risky fix to the herbicide-resistant weed problem. It increases the use of stronger and stronger chemicals that have a greater chance of causing environmental damage, and there is evidence that multiple chemicals can select for a new kind of resistance mechanism in the weeds that will render all chemicals ineffective.

I hope that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is listening.

Bruce Maxwell, Bozeman, Mont.

The writer is a professor of agroecology in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Science at Montana State University.

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