Pesticide Use Ramping Up As GMO Crop Technology
By Carey Gillam
Reuters via readers Supported News
October 3, 2012
US. farmers are using more hazardous pesticides to
fight weeds and insects due largely to heavy
adoption of genetically modified crop technologies
that are sparking a rise of "superweeds" and hard-
to-kill insects, according to a newly released study.
Genetically engineered crops have led to an increase
in overall pesticide use, by 404 million pounds from
the time they were introduced in 1996 through
2011, according to the report by Charles Benbrook,
a research professor at the Center for Sustaining
Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington
Of that total, herbicide use increased over the 16-
year period by 527 million pounds while insecticide
use decreased by 123 million pounds.
Benbrook's paper -- published in the peer-reviewed
journal Environmental Sciences Europe over the
weekend and announced on Monday -- undermines
the value of both herbicide-tolerant crops and
insect-protected crops, which were aimed at making
it easier for farmers to kill weeds in their fields and
protect crops from harmful pests, said Benbrook.
Herbicide-tolerant crops were the first genetically
modified crops introduced to world, rolled out by
Monsanto Co. in 1996, first in "Roundup Ready"
soybeans and then in corn, cotton and other crops.
Roundup Ready crops are engineered through
transgenic modification to tolerate dousings of
Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
The crops were a hit with farmers who found they
could easily kill weed populations without damaging
their crops. But in recent years, more than two
dozen weed species have become resistant to
Roundup's chief ingredient glyphosate, causing
farmers to use increasing amounts both of
glyphosate and other weedkilling chemicals to try to
control the so-called "superweeds."
"Resistant weeds have become a major problem for
many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now
driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year
by about 25 percent," Benbrook said.
Monsanto officials had no immediate comment.
"We're looking at this. Our experts haven't been able
to access the supporting data as yet," said Monsanto
spokesman Thomas Helscher.
Benbrook said the annual increase in the herbicides
required to deal with tougher-to-control weeds on
cropland planted to genetically modified crops has
grown from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to about 90
million pounds in 2011.
Similarly, the introduction of "Bt" corn and cotton
crops engineered to be toxic to certain insects is
triggering the rise of insects resistant to the crop
toxin, according to Benbrook.
Insecticide use did drop substantially - 28 percent
from 1996 to 2011 - but is now on the rise, he said.
"The relatively recent emergence and spread of
insect populations resistant to the Bt toxins
expressed in Bt corn and cotton has started to
increase insecticide use, and will continue to do so,"
Herbicide-tolerant and Bt-transgenic crops now
dominate U.S. agriculture, accounting for about one
in every two acres of harvested cropland, and
around 95 percent of soybean and cotton acres, and
over 85 percent of corn acres.
"Things are getting worse, fast," said Benbrook in an
interview. "In order to deal with rapidly spreading
resistant weeds, farmers are being forced to expand
use of older, higher-risk herbicides. To stop corn
and cotton insects from developing resistance to Bt,
farmers planting Bt crops are being asked to spray
the insecticides that Bt corn and cotton were
designed to displace."
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