Resistance to herbicides in arable weeds is increasing rapidly worldwide and threatening global food security. Resistance has now been reported to all major herbicide modes of action despite the development of resistance management strategies in the 1990s. We review here recent advances in understanding the genetic bases and evolutionary drivers of herbicide resistance that highlight the complex nature of selection for this adaptive trait. Whereas early studied cases of resistance were highly herbicide-specific and largely under monogenic control, cases of greatest concern today generally involve resistance to multiple modes of action, are under polygenic control, and are derived from pre-existing stress response pathways. Although 'omics' approaches should enable unraveling the genetic bases of complex resistances, the appearance, selection, and spread of herbicide resistance in weed populations can only be fully elucidated by focusing on evolutionary dynamics and implementing integrative modeling efforts. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.