Genetically Engineered Crops Increase Use of Pesticides

A new study authored by Charles M Benbrook of Washington State University, “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. — the first sixteen years,” found troubling evidence that the use of genetically modified crops leads to greater pesticide use. This peer reviewed paper concludes,

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.

My two cents about genetically engineered ag:  I’ve always thought the best arguement against GMOs relates to unintended consequences. The novelty of genetic modification, when compared to the slower pace of conventional plant breeding, is a perfect way to generate “black swans“.  This is why I’ll be voting for Proposition 37 which will mandate the labeling of genetically engineered products in California.

Via The Garden Professors.  

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  1. I’m a bit confused by the apparent use of ‘pesticide’ and ‘herbicide’ interchangeably. I thought ‘pesticide’ killed, well, pests – insects and the like, and ‘herbicide’ killed plant materials. Am I wrong? Has ‘pesticide’ come to include vegetable-matter pests?

    • In fact, pesticide is a broad term which embraces the destruction of any “pest” to man–including weeds and animals. Herbicide is technically a pesticide. Check out the Wikipedia entry for more info.

  2. The theme of unintended consequences coming back to bite us is recurrent in literature – at least in Western lit – going back centuries. You’d think we would have learned by now.

  3. I too, am in favor of knowing more about what we “consumers” are purchasing in the market…especially when it comes to food going in our bodies. We almost don’t need this genetically modified food label proposition…with all the gen/mod corn and soy in almost every processed food these days, it’s now a given that when you buy things in packages, it’s got genetically modified ingredients. But I will vote for this poorly written proposition if only to send a message that we need this information on labels.

  4. I am forever grateful for the labeling laws that started in CA. Now, I know that extension cords contain lead thanks to CA. Of course, I learned that too late to keep my children from the Christmas three light cord as they turned it on and off. NOW, I always wash my hands.

    I like the term “cumulative effects” when discussing how little or how much of a harmful substance we ingest or come into contact with.

  5. I, too, am in favor of the ‘right to know’ and if there are no health problems connected with GMO’s then let them shout it from the roof tops…”OUR PRODUCT HAS GMO’S”…seriously there are too many problems associated with GMO’s to overlook them and we should have the right to decide if we want to consume them or not. Yes on Prop 37.

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