We’ve all heard the warnings: finish your antibiotics. My generation grew up understanding the overprescription of antibiotics and the dangers associated with it. Quit your prescription a few days early, and you may be contributing to the slow build up of resistant bacterial strands. We’ve seen super-powerful strands of MRSA and other diseases pop up in hospitals and wreak devastating consequences. Medicines like penicillin are no longer affective in treating many illnesses because the bacteria outsmarted us. And they continue to outsmart us. As we produce new medicines the bacteria will continue to select for resistant strands- building a whole new race of super germs.
It is a pretty simply concept. When an antibiotic is introduced to a colony of bacteria, it will wipe out most of the population. However, a few may survive because of a mutation that gives them the super power of resistance. Bacteria are swift to reproduce. By fission, one becomes two, two become four, four become eight… and before you know it you’ve got a whole colony. Those few resistant bacteria divide and produce lots of resistance offspring. After a while, a whole new strand of bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, rendering our prescriptions inefficient bacteria-killers.
The same thing is happening in our crops, today. We’ve created these genetically modified plants, but they require heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides. As we dump tons and tons of pesticides on our crops, weeds and other pests may become resistant. This article from The Guardian sheds some light on GM crops and how pesticide use has changed since the small-farmer days. Companies like Monsanto who mass produce the same GM seed for their crops are especially vulnerable to the overuse of pesticides and the rise of “superweeds.” The security of our crops is at stake in these one-species situations. Biodiversity steadies the fluctuations present in single crop industries.
Just like supergerms caused scares when they invaded our hospitals, so, too, might “superweeds” in our crop industries.