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Happy(?) Anniversary, Monsanto!

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Time sure flies, doesn't it? This spring marks the not-so-happy 20th anniversary of the introduction of Monsanto's flagship "RoundUp Ready" GE crops. USDA approved the first of these pesticide-intensive systems for commodity crops back in 1994. The new products came with big promises: they would fatten farmers' wallets and at the same time feed starving people around the world.

Farmers bought into RoundUp Ready corn, soy and cotton in a big way. Now, 85% of all corn and 90% of all soybeans grown in the U.S. have that trademarked RoundUp Ready gene. RoundUp Ready is king of the hill when it comes to commodity seeds - but not for long. Five years from now, RoundUp Ready may be nothing more than a relic of the past.

Monsanto's RoundUp Ready line of crops revolutionized U.S. agriculture, creating a new, divergent path that changed some very basic tenets of farming. Farmers could no longer save seeds from year to year. They would now pay a premium each year for seeds, always to the largest biotech companies in the world. As a result, independent seed companies rapidly disappeared: in 1996 this country was home to 300 - by 2009 we were down to 100.

But let's look more closely at those benefits that Monsanto promised with the introduction of RoundUp Ready crops 20 years ago, and how the reality matches up on farms across the country.

Promise #1: Save farmers money

How can Monsanto claim that the RoundUp system was ever intended to reduce pesticide use?

With each new GE technology, farmers have been promised increased yields. And RoundUp Ready was no exception. Specifically, farmers were told they could make more money with RoundUp Ready systems by increasing yields and decreasing pesticide costs. Turns out, just the opposite is true: RoundUp Ready corn and soy have consistently underperformed compared to the yield per acre of conventional, non-GE crops.

As for reducing pesticides - I honestly don't understand how Monsanto can continue to claim that the RoundUp system was ever intended to reduce pesticide use. Studies have shown a drastically different story: GE technology has driven up pesticide use 11% - a whopping 527 million pounds - since the year RoundUp Ready crops first hit the fields.     


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