New Report Reveals Dramatic Rise in Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops Due to the Spread of Resistant WeedsBy The Organic Center, PRNE
Monday, November 16, 2009
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
BOULDER, Colorado, November 17 - Genetically engineered (GE) corn, soybeans and cotton have increased use
of weed-killing herbicides — a type of pesticide — by 383 million pounds in
the U.S. from 1996 to 2008, according to a new Organic Center report titled
"Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United
States: The First Thirteen Years" 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 US$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
Freese, 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
The analytical work required to complete this report
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 International and Rural
Advancement Fund International USA.
About The Organic Center
The Organic Center's unique mission is to advance scientific research on
the health and environmental benefits of organic foods, and to communicate
those benefits to the public. As an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) research
and education organization, we envision improved health for the earth and its
inhabitants through conversion of agriculture to organic methods. All of The
Organic Center's research reports, publications, consumer guides and videos
are available free of charge on our website, www.organic-center.org.
About The Union of Concerned Scientists
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based
nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world.
Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also
has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
About The Center for Food Safety
The Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership
organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by
curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting
organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS currently represents
over 68,000 members across the nation. On the web at:
For TOC: Dr. Charles Benbrook, +1-541-828-7918, cbenbrook at organic-center.org; or Mia Herron, +1-323-932-4030, mia at neighboragency.com; or For UCS: Emily Robinson, +1-312-578-1750 ext. 15, ERobinson at ucsusa.org; or For CFS: Bill Freese, +1-202-547-9359 ext. 14, BFreese at icta.org
Tags: Boulder, Colorado, The Organic Center, United Kingdom