Roundup is a broad- spectrum herbicide produced by the Monsanto company. Roundup is Monsanto’s trademark product
name for the chemical Glyphosate. Roundup has been an enormous commercial success for Monsanto; it has been the
number one selling herbicide in the world for the past three decades. When figures of Roundup sales are combined
with sales of Roundup related products (such as GM modified Roundup Ready seeds) Roundup is responsible for nearly
fifty percent of Monsanto’s annual profits. While this has been a windfall for Monsanto for three decades it was
also a risky move that is now causing problems; . Roundup was initially trademarked and the chemical Glyphosate
patented by Monsanto in the 1970’s these patents expired in the year 2000, as a result cheap alternatives to
Roundup have flooded the market place; lack of diversity in their product line is hitting Monsanto hard.
Glyphosate (the main active ingredient in Roundup) works by inhibiting enzymes. It targets enzymes responsible
for the synthesis of the aromatic amino enzymes tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine. Roundup is absorbed
through the plants foliage as it grows; this is an important point since Roundup is only effective on plants during
a growth cycle. Roundup is totally useless as a preventative.
Monsanto increased the effectiveness of roundup by creating a line of Roundup Ready crops. Monsanto has
genetically modified the seeds of certain crops to be immune to the effects of Roundup. In 1996 Monsanto introduced
the first Roundup Ready crop to the market a genetically modified line of soybeans; since then the line has grown
to include corn, sorghum, canola, alfalfa, and cotton. Farmers now no longer have to be careful when applying
Roundup, they can spray entire fields with it and be confident that it will have no effect on their desired crop
and only kill undesired weeds growing in the field. This had a twofold effect on sales of Roundup, one it made
Roundup more easy to use increasing its popularity, second farmers no longer needed to spot apply it, they were now
spraying entire fields increasing the amount of herbicides used per acre.
Roundup has its share of controversy; many claim that by promoting one type of seed the genetic diversity of
crops are in danger. This was witnessed in India where farmers became dependant on Monsanto’s genetically modified
Bt cotton. Bt cotton was unusually susceptible to the American Bollworm the lack of crop diversity in India let
this infestation quickly spread and destroyed crops in entire regions of the country. There are also nagging
questions about the health effects of the Roundup product line, although studies seem to contradict each other.