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Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting:

A new genetically engineered corn seed designed by Bayer to be sprayed by up to five herbicides could represent the future of farming, providing growers with more pesticides to combat the problem of weed resistance.

But for how long? That's the question raised by weed scientists, who say farmers need to start switching to non-chemical options to keep weeds under control.

Over the past 50 years, weed resistance has become a significant problem for agriculture in the U.S., with more than 165 unique species of weeds becoming resistant to chemicals. The problem has increased significantly since the introduction of genetically modified crops and use of accompanying herbicides in the 1990s.

The new seed, which Bayer has petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval, could be sprayed by glyphosate, glufosinate, dicamba, 2,4-D and quizalofop, giving farmers multiple options for weed control.

The USDA has a public comment period for the seed open until July 7. As of July 3, 15 comments have been submitted.

Bayer spokeswoman Susan Luke said in an email that, pending regulatory approvals, the company plans a full commercial launch of the seed later this decade.

"We expect HT4 to be widely used - and growers continue to ask for additional crop protection tools to help manage tough-to-control weeds. This product will offer growers more options to manage broadleaf weeds in corn and will provide growers increased flexibility and another tool in the crop protection toolbox," Luke said.

Corn is the most bountiful crop grown in the United States, making up about 92 million acres of farmland, an area about the size of Minnesota or Michigan; about a third of the crop is used for animal feed, about a third is used for ethanol and the rest is split between human food, beverages, industrial uses and exports. About 90 percent of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, according to the USDA.

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