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More Pesticides and Herbicides Coming to Our Food

For related articles and information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page, Health Issues page and our Environment and Climate Resource Center page.

One of the "benefits" of genetically modified (GM) crops is supposed to be a significant reduction in the use of chemicals, such as highly toxic herbicides and pesticides.

The idea, theoretically anyhow, was that herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant plants, which make up the majority of GM crops, would make it easier to kill weeds and diminish crop loss to harmful pests.

They would require farmers to use far less chemicals to control weeds and pests, so the pesticide companies, like Monsanto, assured us. In practice, however, this "promise" has been consistently broken.

In 2012, research showed that GM crops have led to a 404-million pound increase in overall pesticide use from the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011. This equates to an increase of about 7 percent per year.

The excessive use of agrichemicals by farmers has now, in turn, led to herbicide resistance, both in weeds and pests, leaving farmers to struggle with an increasingly difficult situation. More than two dozen weed species are now resistant to glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto's broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup.

But instead of getting to the bottom of the weed-resistance problem, which is the GM crops at its foundation, US regulators are adding fuel to the fire and getting ready to approve more GM crops that, ironically, call for even more use of herbicides

New GM Crops Target Weed Resistance with More Herbicides

In a draft "environmental impact statement" (EIS), the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has recommended that Monsanto's new GM cotton and soybean plants should be approved.1

The so-called "Roundup Ready Xtend" crops are resistant to both glyphosate and the herbicide dicamba. Since millions of acres of weeds are now resistant to glyphosate, farmers will be able to douse crops with both glyphosate and dicamba. APHIS also issued a final EIS for Dow AgroSciences' GM "Enlist" corn and soybeans, which are resistant to glyphosate and 2,4-D.

Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, has already found rapidly increasing weed resistance is driving up the volume of herbicide needed by about 25 percent annually.

The new approvals could drive it up by another 50 percent, according to research published in Environmental Sciences Europe:2

"Contrary to often-repeated claims that today's genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied.

If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50 percent.

The magnitude of increases in herbicide use on herbicide-resistant hectares has dwarfed the reduction in insecticide use on Bt crops over the past 16 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future."


The final decision won't be made until after a 30-day public review period, but it unfortunately seems the die has been cast. The approvals would come despite intense opposition from consumer, environmental, and farmer groups, which have voiced valid concerns that the increased use of herbicides on the GM crops will only lead to increasing weed resistance in the long run.

Even APHIS acknowledged that Monsanto's Xtend crops could increase the chance of dicamba-resistant weeds.3 Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network North America, told Reuters:4

"We are outraged  Despite all of this public outcry, what these decisions show is that USDA is much more interested in working with Dow and Monsanto and getting their products to market than in protecting the public."


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