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Don’t Listen to Monsanto: GMOs Lead to More Pesticides

  • by
  • October 11, 2012
  • 5:00 am
Don’t Listen to Monsanto: GMOs Lead to More Pesticides
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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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48 comments

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3:40AM PST on Feb 20, 2013

This company is evil---their idea is simple: poison the consumer then sell them a long term cure. Brilliant but ethically reprehensible & should be illegal.

8:15PM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

I got my mail ballot yesterday, and voted today. Will mail off tomorrow. Yes on 37 and all Democratic Party seats in Washington.

7:17PM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

Thanks.

4:01PM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

Never believe the fox when discussing chickens.

4:01AM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

thanks

4:22PM PDT on Oct 16, 2012

Who, in their right mind, would believe Monsanto. ? They just want to rule the world and are not at all concerned with the consequences of their actions.

3:57AM PDT on Oct 16, 2012

Thanks.

1:32AM PDT on Oct 16, 2012

Thank you for the interesting article.

12:08PM PDT on Oct 15, 2012

Thanks

6:48AM PDT on Oct 14, 2012

@Dorothy N.

First, but minor, I'm Mit W. Mitt is that whip-flopping guy running for president.

Second, The organic farmers spray Bt bacteria onto their crops, not the endotoxin protein themselves. Some will inevitably find their way into some of the produce through cracks, fissures, etc and survive until they are eaten.

Third, the heart of my beef and moo joke, if all that you wrote is true, then it must also be true that any gene from any food we eat can and does transfer to e-coli. After all, the food, bacteria and even the genes themselves cannot distinguish which are GM and which are not. All manner of gene transfering would have to be occurring inside us ! Therefore, eaters of organic food would be exposed to the same gene transfering Bt risks as eaters of bt corn. Perhaps more so because HGT occurs fairly frequently between bacteria and not between complex organisms. The genes producing the endotoxin protein in BT corn, along with all the other genes of the corn (except mitachondrian genes) are locked away inside eukaryotic nuclei, whereas bacterial DNA don't have well defined nuclei.

Fourth, Endotoxin is not toxic to humans. Just because something's toxic to one organism does not mean it's toxic to others. Indeed, there are innumerable examples in nature where one species poison is another species food. Got chocolate ?

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