Resistant weeds increase Pesticide use on GE crops

New Report Reveals Dramatic Rise in Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops Due to the Spread of Resistant Weeds
GE crops increase herbicide use by 383 million pounds from 1996 to
2008, with 46 percent of the total increase occurring in 2007 and 2008

Genetically engineered (GE) corn, soybeans and cotton have increased use of weed-killing herbicides by 383 million pounds in the U.S. from 1996 to 2008, according to a new report titled “Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First 13 Years (PDF)” announced today by The Organic Center (TOC), the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the
Center for Food Safety (CFS). In addition, GE corn and cotton have reduced insecticide use by 64 million pounds, resulting in an overall increase of 318 million pounds of pesticides over the first 13 years of commercial use.

Based upon data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), report
author Dr. Charles Benbrook presents compelling evidence linking the
increase in pesticide use on GE, ‘herbicide-tolerant’ (HT) crops to
the emergence and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. This report
comes at a time when farmers are increasingly critical of GE crops
because of drastically rising biotech seed prices and increasingly
resistant weeds.

The agricultural biotechnology industry claims that the much higher
costs of GE seeds are justified by multiple benefits to farmers,
including decreased spending on pesticides. The price of GE seeds has
risen precipitously in recent years
, and the need to make additional
herbicide applications in an effort to keep up with resistant weeds is
also increasing cash production costs. As an example, corn farmers
planting ‘SmartStax‘ hybrids in 2010 will spend around $124 per acre
for seed, almost three times the cost of conventional corn seed. In
addition, new-generation ‘Roundup Ready’ (RR) 2 soybean seed, to be
introduced on a widespread basis next year, will cost 42 percent more
than the original RR seeds they are displacing.

“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.”

Today’s report refutes industry’s assertions that its crops have
reduced pesticide use. Last April, UCS released a report that found
engineered crops have largely failed to increase crop yields, despite
the industry’s consistent claims to the contrary. “Dr. Benbrook’s work
shows that the overall chemical footprint of today’s engineered crops
is massive and growing,” said Dr. Margaret Mellon, food and
environment program director for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“That growth in pesticide use has important implications for farmers’
bottom lines, public health and the health of the environment.”

“This report confirms what we’ve been saying for years,” said Bill
, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety. “The
most common type of genetically engineered crops promotes increased
use of pesticides, an epidemic of resistant weeds, and more chemical
residues in our foods. This may be profitable for the biotech/
pesticide companies, but it’s bad news for farmers, human health and
the environment.”

Industry claims that GE crops are benefitting the environment ignore
the impacts of the 300+ million additional pounds of pesticides
required over the period covered by this study, as well as growing
reliance by farmers on high-risk herbicides including 2,4-D and
paraquat. In addition to the environmental harm, a report released
earlier this year by TOC
demonstrated that exposure to pesticides is
linked to increased risk of reproductive abnormalities, birth defects
and neurological problems.

The analytical work required to complete this report was funded by a
coalition of non-governmental organizations including the Union of
Concerned Scientists, the Center for Food Safety, the Cornerstone
Campaign, Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, Greenpeace
and Rural Advancement Fund International USA.

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)

Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice
431 Gilmour Street, Second Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 0R5
Phone: 613 241 2267 ext.6
Fax: 613 241 2506

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