Benbrook Study on GM Crops and Pesticides

By Catherine Ward

Genetically Modified (GM) crops were first introduced into the commercial food production system in the late 1990s and, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), GM crops were being cultivated on more than 1 billion hectares around the world by 2010. During 2011, over 16 million farmers worldwide were involved in planting 160 million hectares of GM crops, making biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in modern times.

New data shows that GM crops do not reduce the quantity of pesticides needed for crop production (Photo Credit: Petr Kratochvil)

The scientific community and GMWatch have since raised concerns over the use of GM crops as a possible danger to health and the environment. New data from a study carried out by Dr. Charles Benbrook shows that GM crops do not reduce the quantity of pesticides used in their production over time, and crops now considered herbicide-tolerant include corn (Bt corn varieties), soy, and cotton (Bt cotton varities).

Benbrook analyzed pesticide use on GM and non-GM equivalent crops over 16 years (1996-2011), with findings showing that herbicide-tolerant crops have increased pesticide use by 239 million kg over this time period. For example, increased herbicide use on GM herbicide-tolerant cotton was 0.4 kg per acre more than its non-GM counterpart. Similarly, herbicide use on GM soy was 0.3 kg per acre more than non-GM soy.

Herbicide-tolerant crops cause ecological changes that undermine the effectiveness of GM technology, such as the accelerated the spread of resistant weeds. Benbrook found that over 14 million acres in the US are presently infested with glyphosate-resistant weeds, with few viable chemical prospects for management.

Issues noted by Benbrook surrounding GM crop technology include corporate control over the seed industry; the lack of an adequate response to herbicide resistance by the US government; loss of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) skills among farmers; and increased reliance on toxic chemical solutions in farming methods.

To read the finding from Benbrook’s study, please click here.

Catherine Ward is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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