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Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years

Original post made by pa resident, Adobe-Meadow, on Oct 20, 2012

Genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant and insect-resistant crops have been remarkable commercial successes in the United States. Few independent studies have calculated their impacts on pesticide use per hectare or overall pesticide use, or taken into account the impact of rapidly spreading glyphosate-resistant weeds. A model was developed to quantify by crop and year the impacts of six major transgenic pest-management traits on pesticide use in the U.S. over the 16-year period, 1996--2011: herbicide-resistant corn, soybeans, and cotton; Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn targeting the European corn borer; Bt corn for corn rootworms; and Bt cotton for Lepidopteron insects.

Herbicide-resistant crop technology has led to a 239 million kilogram (527 million pound) increase in herbicide use in the United States between 1996 and 2011, while Bt crops have reduced insecticide applications by 56 million kilograms (123 million pounds). Overall, pesticide use increased by an estimated 183 million kgs (404 million pounds), or about 7%.

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%. 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.
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Comments (11)

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2012 at 9:20 am

One of those higher-risk chemicals is 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) – one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, which was used to defoliate battle fields in the jungles of Vietnam, with horrendous consequences to the health of those exposed. If you want to see some of its effects on children who were exposed in the womb, you can do so on DigitalJournalist.org3 – but I warn you the photos are very graphic and upsetting.Web Link

Benbrook's paper includes a model showing how a 2,4-D-resistant corn product, if released in 2013, would affect the use of 2,4-D on farm fields. According to his projections, which he refers to as "conservative" assumptions, use of 2,4-D could reach 103.4 million pounds annually as early as 2019 – up from the current level of 3.3 million pounds in 2010.Web Link

Due to the toxic nature of 2,4-D, the results of such a massive increase in use would raise risks of birth defects and reproductive problems in those who consume the food, not to mention the severe hazard it poses to aquatic and other ecosystems. This is valuable information indeed, considering the fact that biotech giant Dow's new GE product, dubbed "Enlist," is a three-gene, herbicide-tolerant soybean engineered to be resistant to not only glyphosate, but glufosinate and 2,4-D as well!

Talk about a triple whammy of trouble coming down the pike...

Ironically, Dow touts their new product as a solution to Monsanto's failing Roundup Ready GE crops. This despite the fact that 28 species across 16 plant families have already evolved resistance to herbicides with a similar mode of action as 2,4-D, according to a 2011 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,4 in which the authors criticize speculation that 2,4-D would not cause resistance. Remember that Monsanto recently won a billion dollar award in their suit against Dow.

Civil Society Groups Urge Global Leaders to Institute Biosafety Protection

In related news, civil society groups from multiple nations convening at a recent Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety Meeting urged global leaders to "follow the Convention on Biological Diversity, in letter and spirit," reports.5

"They appealed to global nations to ensure that biodiversity, and with it the access of the local people to their biological heritage, is not sacrificed for risky and irreversible technologies like genetic engineering in agriculture. They demanded that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and living modified organisms (LMOs) are not released into the environment. Their appeal came in the backdrop of growing evidence on the impacts of genetically engineered crops on biodiversity and human health."

India has been growing genetically engineered Bt cotton since 2002, and after a mere decade, the livelihoods of farmers across the country have faltered at an unprecedented rate. According to the featured article:

"Studies have shown that it has not only failed to increase yields or reduce pesticide usage as claimed by the biotech seed industry but has increased the cost of cultivation of cotton, and thereby pushing the cotton farmers into further distress. The situation is particularly acute in the rainfed regions in the country, which comprises 65 percent of the area under cotton cultivation.

Highlighting the Bt cotton experience, Sridhar said: 'It is unfortunate that India learned its lesson the hard way from its tryst with Bt cotton and it is our poor farmers who are continuing to pay with their lives.

It is time that governments across the world realize that techno-fixes like GM crops can neither solve agrarian distress nor provide food security. The solutions to these lie in ecological farming where the triple bottom lines of social, ecological and economical sustainability are met.'"

The Lies that Allowed Monsanto to Get their GE Products Onto Your Dinner Plate

In 2009, President Obama appointed former Monsanto VP for Public Policy, Michael Taylor, as a senior adviser for the FDA, turning a deaf ear to the loud protests from consumer groups. Taylor is currently serving as the deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA – a position that includes ensuring food labels contain clear and accurate information. He also oversees strategy for food safety, and planning new food safety legislation.

To say he's a fox guarding a hen house would be an understatement. This sentiment is shared by most people who are even remotely aware of food safety issues. At the time of Taylor's appointment, GE expert Jeffrey Smith commented:6

"The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history has just been made the US food safety czar. This is no joke."

Posted by Tranparency is King
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Oct 20, 2012 at 10:29 am

Label the food we feed our children!!

Yes on 37

Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm

It should be obvious that we need Proposition 37 ASAP. Most people would be happy to pay a little extra to ensure that the food they consume is safe, especially for their children. A child's small body is much more quickly overloaded with these toxins.

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Oct 21, 2012 at 8:39 am

No, in fact, I do not want to be forced to pay on average $400 more per year to feed my family, and put many more out of work, because of Prop 37. I am capable of researching my OWN food, thank you, and making my OWN decisions and don't need expensive,job killing bills from do-gooders to "help" me.

Posted by Food facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm

@Perspective. The cost would more likely be $23 to $62 per family per year. Web Link

Posted by Not Facts
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm

@Food Facts - that's not what the link you provided says. If you assume that food makers switch ingredients to avoid what some have called a "skull & bones" label on their product, the $400 is correct.

Since it probably isn't economic for them to make, stock, distribute, and split shelf space between labeled and non-labeled product, it seems likely that they just switch to non-labeled - incurring the $400 per family cost. "Researchers point to the example of Europe, where labeling genetically modified organisms is required and very few products contain GMOs." All per your link.

Posted by Food Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Read the last paragraph.

Posted by Not Facts
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I did - here it is in total:

The same studies say the cost increases would be much smaller if manufacturers chose to keep their ingredients the same and label their food as genetically engineered: For the typical California family, that approach would amount to $23 to $62 more per year.

As the article points out, the "if" here is not the likely case - rather than have two varieties of the same product with different ingredients, they'll likely just sell the product that doesn't have the label - like it says has happened in Europe. That results in $400 in additional cost per family.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 22, 2012 at 7:57 am

You have to wonder why the rates of allergies and autism in kids are going up. And the rates of cancer going up too. And it's not because medical science has better detection methods.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 22, 2012 at 8:02 am

As an added note, I would rather have the label because it would make my life a lot easier. I wouldn't have to spend the time researching my own food. If I see the label, bam, I know in an instant what I do not want to eat. Easy, simple, saves time.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive

on Jun 5, 2017 at 4:31 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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