Genetically-Modified Crops Are Requiring Increasing Amounts of Pesticide

By Alexandra Beane — October 17, 2012


A recent story in Mother Jones magazine titled “How GMOs Unleashed a Pesticide Gusher,” reports that while genetically-modified crops were intended to decrease the amount of pesticide needed to control weeds, new research in Environment Science Europe shows that from 1996 to 2011, GMO technology drove up herbicide use by 527 million pounds, or about 11 percent. This is because the crops have developed a resistance to herbicides, so that more and stronger ones are needed.

Biotech giant Monsanto developed “Roundup Ready” crops to withstand their own herbicide, Roundup. Although these crops did initially reduce the need for herbicides, they began to develop a resistance to then, requiring more and stronger chemicals. However, farmers have needed “a veritable monsoon of herbicides, both in terms of higher application rates for Roundup, and, in recent years, growing use of other, more-toxic herbicides” in corn, soy, and cotton. These have included older, more toxic herbicides. According to Mother Jones, both Monsanto and Dow have developed seeds designed to resist both Roundup and older herbicides including 2,4-D, “the less toxic half of the formulation that made up the infamous Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange.” However, some 2,4-D resistant weeds have already been reported. sums it up like this: “Since their introduction, genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops have not delivered the herbicide reduction benefits as intended, with the trend in herbicide use going up, as resistance develops.”

California’s Proposition 37

Supporters behind Proposition 37 on the Nov. 6 ballot in California aim to make California the first state in the U.S. to require the labeling of food made from plants or animals with genetically-modified materials. Not surprisingly, Monsanto has put a significant amount of money into defeating the measure, nicknamed  the “Right to Know” measure. These ingredients are currently unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The money and advertising put into defeating the proposition is working. While the proposition was favored by a 2-1 margin, according to the Oct. 12 Los Angeles Times, the proposition is now leading just 48.3% to 40.2% in the poll by the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and the California Business Roundtable, with 11.5% undecided.

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