Genetically Modified Crops Causing an Increased Use of Harmful Pesticides

February 14th, 2008

Net News Publisher (link no longer available)

A new report shows that planting genetically modified (GM) crops is causing an increased use of harmful pesticides in major biotech crop producing countries.

The 2008 edition of the Friends of the Earth International “Who Benefits from GM crops?” report series is titled “The Rise in Pesticide Use” and concludes that GM crops on the market today have on the whole caused an increase rather than a decrease in toxic pesticides use, and have failed to tackle hunger and poverty.

After more than a decade of GM crop cultivation, more than 70% of the area cultivated with biotech crops is still concentrated in only two countries: the US and Argentina. To date, GM crops have done nothing to alleviate hunger or poverty in Africa or elsewhere.

“The biotech industry is telling Africans that we need GM crops to tackle the food needs of our population. But how can we believe such statements when the majority of GM crops are used to feed the animals of rich countries, produce industrial products like agrofuels, and overall don’t yield more than conventional crops?”, said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Nigeria/ERA.

“GM crops still fail to deliver the long-promised benefits. They are not good for the environment, as they are increasing pesticide use. In addition, they do not benefit small farmers or consumers in terms of quality or price,” added Bassey.

The new report launch coincides with the annual release of the “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech” report of the industry-sponsored International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) which promotes GM crops as beneficial for the environment and a key solution to hunger and poverty.

The GM crops industry continues to misleadingly claim that GM crops reduce pesticide use and play a role in tackling poverty and hunger. The main conclusions of the 2008 report “The Rise in Pesticide Use” include :

1) GM crops are not ‘green’. The adoption of Roundup Ready (RR) crops, the most extensively grown GM crop today, has led to an increase in pesticide use:

      – In the United States, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that RR crops drove a more than 15-fold increase in the use of glyphosate -the herbicide associated with RR crops- on major field crops from 1994 to 2005. In 2006, the last year for which data is available, glyphosate use on soybeans jumped a substantial 28%. The intensity of glyphosate use has also risen dramatically. From 1994 to 2006, the amount of glyphosate applied per acre of soya rose by more than 150%.

The increase in glyphosate herbicide is no longer displacing other herbicides in the US. From 2002 to 2006 the use of 2,4-D -one of the most widely used herbicide in the world- on soybeans more than doubled, and the use of atrazine (an herbicide banned in Europe due to links to health problems) on corn increased by 12 per cent from 2002 to 2005.

– In major RR soybean producer countries, like Brazil and Argentina, glyphosate use and weed resistance have risen. A 2007 study by a Brazilian governmental agency shows that the use of glyphosate increased 79,6% between 2000 to 2005, much faster than the expansion in area planted with RR soya. In 2007 a glyphosate-resistant weed called Johnson Grass infested over 120,000 ha in Argentina. An estimated 25 million litres of herbicides other than glyphosate will be needed, resulting in increasing production costs of between $160 to 950 million per year. In India, a 2007 study from Andhra University concluded that Bt cotton uses the same amount of pesticides as conventional cotton.

2) GM crops do not tackle hunger or poverty. Most GM crops commercialized so far are destined for animal feed, not for food, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty issues. GM crops are not providing help to small farmers in developing countries. In South Africa, for example since the adoption of Bt cotton, the number of small cotton farmers have plummeted from 3229 in 2001/02 to just 853 in 2006/07.

3) Overall, current GM crops do not yield more than other existing crop varieties:

      – RR Soybeans, the most widely planted GM crop in the world, does not have a higher yield performance than conventional soya. On the contrary, many studies show that RR soya has on average 5-10% lower yield than equivalent conventional varieties.

– Bt cotton does not have higher yields than conventional cotton. In most countries where Bt cotton was adopted -such as the U.S., Argentina, Colombia, and Australia – overall cotton yields remained constant . In other countries, like India and China, the yield increase is mainly due to weather conditions and other production factors not related to GM technology. For example Xinjiang, the Chinese province with the highest cotton production and the highest average yield in China, grows mostly conventional cotton, not Bt varieties.

Source: Friends of the Earth

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