Increase in GM Crops, Resistant Weeds Lead to Dramatic Rise in Pesticide Use
The widespread use of genetically modified (GM) crops engineered to tolerate herbicides has led to a sharp increase in the use of agricultural chemicals in the U.S. This practice is creating herbicide-resistant "super weeds" and an increase in chemical residues in U.S. food, according to a new report released today by The Organic Center, the Union for Concerned Scientists, and the Center for Food Safety.
According to the report, entitled "Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years," as more farmers have adopted variations of corn, soy beans, and cotton bred to tolerate weed killer in recent years, the use of herbicides has increased steadily, with herbicide use growing by 383 million pounds from 1996 to 2008, according to the report. Forty-six percent of that increase occurred during 2007 and 2008.
On the plus side, the report said the use of insecticides has actually decreased by 64 million pounds since 1996 because many genetically modified crops such as cotton and corn carry traits that make them resistant to insects.
The most popular genetically modified crops are known as "Roundup Ready" for their ability to survive after being sprayed with the herbicide, Roundup. Officials with the Biotechnology Industry Organization said herbicide-resistant crops initially made it easier for farmers to manage weed problems. Over time, however, an unfortunate consequence has been a growing epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds.
"The drastic increase in pesticide use with genetically engineered crops is due primarily to the rapid emergence of weeds resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide," said Dr. Charles Benbrook, report author and chief scientist of The Organic Center. "With glyphosate-resistant weeds now infesting millions of acres, farmers face rising costs coupled with sometimes major yield losses, and the environmental impact of weed management systems will surely rise."
The resulting war between farmers and increasingly tough-to-kill weeds is "bad news for farmers, human health and the environment," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety.
More information on this topic, including the full report, can be found at the Center for Food Safety’s website: http://truefoodnow.org/2009