Contrary to what Monsanto would have us believe, a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe suggests that pesticide use has been on the rise thanks to the adoption of GMO technology for growing up to 95% of the nation’s corn, soybeans and cotton.
The biotech seed and agrichemical company has a stranglehold on American industrial agriculture, with more than 170 million acres of American farmland taken up for its products, including RoundUp Ready crops that are genetically engineered to survive repeated applications of the company’s RoundUp herbicides. As a result, according to the study, so-called “superweeds” are proliferating and farmers are trying to manage the situation with heavier applications of RoundUp.
What Monsanto Claims
In its campaign against California’s Prop 37 GMO labeling initiative, Monsanto and its cohorts argue that the technology “has been used for nearly two decades to grow varieties of corn, soybeans and other crops that resist diseases and insects and require fewer pesticides.” Likewise, on its website, the company claims that its GMO technology has allowed farmers to “decrease the overall use of herbicides.”
Charles Benbrook, however, author of the new study and research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, “shreds that claim,” as Tom Philpott put it in a piece for Mother Jones.
Counterclaims from the New Study
Between 1996 and 2011, Benbrook found, overall pesticide use increased by 404 million pounds, or about 7%, in the U.S. Bt crops, which contain a gene that make them toxic to crop-destroying insects, have reduced insecticide use by 123 million pounds, but herbicide-resistant crop technology has led to a 527 million pound increase in the application of herbicides.
“By 2011,” Philpott writes, “farms using Roundup Ready seeds were using 24 percent more herbicide than non-GMO farms planting the same crops, Benbrook told me. What happened? By that time, ‘in all three crops [corn, soy, and cotton], resistant weeds had fully kicked in,’ Benbrook said, and farmers were responding both by ramping up use of Roundup and resorting to older, more toxic herbicides like 2,4-D.”
At the same time, Bt crops are beginning to fail as well and, as Benbrook told Philpott, farmers in the Midwest are being advised to spray additional insecticides to protect them.
Next: Monsanto’s Response to the Study’s Findings
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