Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Herbicide resistant weeds are a new class of plants that have evolved rapidly to meet the challenges of living in the novel environments of industrial agriculture. While doing research in Argentina on the transition from cattle ranches to genetically modified soybean plantations, I was stunned by the fact that plants had evolved resistance to so many herbicides, and that farmers were cavalier about these quickly evolving plants. When herbicide resistant weeds emerged, farmers simply used stronger chemicals. Farmers were pulled into being subjects of these new chemically-induced ecologies emerging from Argentina’s soybean plantations. They naturalized rapid evolution, forgot baseline environments, and, in many cases, developed new senses of themselves in a hurry. This paper, through a close look at herbicide resistant Palmer amaranth, examines ecological amnesia as a predicament of industrial agriculture and feral landscapes. I suggest that the rise of herbicide resistant weeds in the 21st century shows us that there is violence in ecological forgetting. Unable to recall a time when herbicide resistant weeds did not exist, farmers see them as a natural feature of landscapes. Because such willful omissions relegate them to the ordinary, herbicide resistant weeds continue to make history.