GM crops increase pesticide use, 12°

C Robb W. 429°

From Organic Consumers Association

"According to a recent (December 2008) global summary report from the Worldwatch Institute:

1) The U.S. leads the world, by far, in genetically engineered crop production and consumption.

2) The widespread planting of crops genetically engineered to resist specific pesticides (which allows farmers to apply more pesticides to their
crops) has created 15 new species of plants known as "superweeds" that are resistant to commonly used pesticides. In 2008, these superweeds were discovered on hundreds of thousands of acres of U.S. farmland.

3) Due to the presence of these new superweeds, GM crop production has already led to a $60 million annual increase in pesticide use in the U.S.
Most of that money goes to the same companies that developed the GM crops that were supposed to reduce pesticide use in the first place."
Learn more

5 replies

Charles M. 110°

Lumping all pesticides and all GM crops together results in a meaningless statistic. You need to sift through the information to make any conclusions.

There are basically two GM traits:
1) Insect resistance
2) Herbicide resistance.

Insect resistance should mean that that less insecticides are required to achieve the same level of insect management. This should be reducing insecticide use.

Herbicide resistance (typified by RoundUp Ready) makes the plant less susceptible to a particular herbicide (eg. RoundUp). This allows that herbicide to be used to control weeds in a crop without killing the crop.

Round Up is a broad spectrum killer and pretty much kills all plants it touches. It is however relatively benign when compared to other herbicides.

Before the introduction of Round Up Ready crops, farmers would have to use specific herbicides, or none at all. For example, some herbicides will kill thistles but not wheat. These specific herbicides tend to be very limited in when they can be used (eg. maybe can't use them while the main crop is young) as well as being a lot more toxic and expensive than RoundUp.

Thus RoundUp Ready has made it a lot easier for farmers to spray. They are less limited in when they can do this. RoundUp is a relatively cheap herbicide meaning that application costs are lower too, all up - a no brainer decision.

Thus it is not at all surprising that RoundUp Ready crops get sprayed more.

While I prefer spray free crops, on the plus side, RoundUp is relaively benign (compared with other herbicides). If the crops are going to be sprayed I'd rather that they get sprayed with RoundUp rather than specific herbicides.

GM for insect control is a relatively small part of GM, therefore it is not surprising that the savings for insect control are swamped by the increase due to herbicide resistance.

Written in February 2009

Linda C. 44°

The previous reply sounds suspiciously similar to the company line spouted by Monsanto - I encourage you to view the documentary available through this site "..the world according to Monsanto". Not everyone is who the seem to be.

Written in March 2009

Charles M. 110°

My previous comment might match some aspects of the Monsanto point of view, but that is not at all because I agree with GM or Monsanto or subscribe to their company line.

RoundUpReady does make it far easier for farmers to spray and that is going to increase the use of herbicides. Pretty obvious. The only plus side is that it allows the use of broad spectrum herbicides such as RoundUp which are less damaging than the weed specific herbicides.

I am not at all saying that RoundUp is good stuff, it is just far less bad than weed specific herbicides. Round up destroys cell structure but breaks down relatively quickly once it hits the soil. The weed specific herbicides use hormones and other nasties that tend to last a long time and have residual side effects.

As I said above, while I prefer spray free crops, I would still prefer to deal with round up than other herbicides.

I also avoid GM as much as I can. I don't support the use of GM soy, even though it does have herbicidal advantages.

But therein lies the quandary. Very few issues in this world are black or white. There are instead many shades of grey/gray. The above is an example of this: GM has both positive and negative impacts and it is mostly a personal choice as to which you subscribe to.

There are numerous other conflicts. Even organics, as practiced by agriculturalists, have both positive and negative impacts. For example:
* Flame weeding (an organically acceptable weeding practice) uses large amounts of hydrocarbons.
* No-till farming (carbon and soil friendly) requires the use of weed killers like round up.

The only surefire way to make advances is to reduce consumption since that will result in less of either practice.

Written in March 2009

Linda C. 44°

Thank you for the information. I admit I have much to learn about this subject and I appreciate your help in understanding the various aspects. 2 of your statements raise questions: 1 - GM has both positive and negative impacts... Can you elaborate on the positive? and 2 - Organic farmers use toxic chemicals? Am I so naive in believing 'organic' meant natural and non-toxic?
and one more question - what do you mean specifically when you state :The only surefire way to make advances is to reduce consumption since that will result in less of either practice.? Are you saying we would need a change in Consumption of the product? As regards food sources - and soy in particular which is increasingly being used in so many products what would be an alternative in cultures that are unable to sustain other crops? This is the big negative that I perceive as a result of GOM crops and Monsanto's soy in particular.

Written in March 2009

Charles M. 110°

I very much dislike the idea of GM. We're far too arrogant for our own good. But, I have to say that is a subjective argument.

GM does have some up sides and down sides: Up side is that some GM can reduce pesticide use and also allow crops to grow where they could not grow before (eg. reduce the need for irrigation). The down sides are all the concerns with messing with nature. Deciding whether the good outweighs the bad is generally a subjective call.

2) I did not say that organic farmers use toxic substances, though they do. It is OK to use some natural toxic compounds within an organic framework. What I did say is that some organic measures might be considered to be non-environmentally friendly. For example, consider flame weeding which typically uses propane, or diesel flames to scorch the weeds. That generates a lot of CO2, so it becomes another subjective judgement call: is burning fossil fuels to kill weeds worse than spraying? It depends on your point of view.

It is all very well asking producers to change their patterns, Generally all that happens is that they can change one set of destructive practices for a different set.

By reducing consumption or by changing your consumption you are going to reduce the impact regardless of how stuff is produced.

The major usage of soy and grain is in feedlot feeding of meat animals. It takes about 15 pounds of grain/soy to make one pound of meat. Reduce your meat consumption by 50% and you reduce your effective soy usage by almost 50% and by implication your GM + pesticide "footprint" by 50%.

Remember, farmers are not really being nasty just to be nasty. They are growing crops and food for you because you pay them to. They are your proxy that you pay to do these things. When a farmer in the Amazon cuts down rain forest to plant soy to feed pigs to make into bacon that you eat, they are acting as your instrument. Buy the bacon raised in feedlots and you are paying someone to go chop down trees in a rain forest, develop GM soy and use pesticides.

Consumption drives production. It was not always that way. In the old days, agricultural products were production constrained. Now there is more than enough food, many times over, but the industry is always wanting everyone to increase consumption so that they have a bigger demands to serve.

Written in March 2009

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