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How GMOs are to blame for the rampant overuse of pesticides in modern agriculture

Saturday, July 20, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: GMOs, pesticides, crop yields

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(NaturalNews) It's no secret here, Natural News has long reported what the mainstream media generally has not regarding the risks of GM foods and how they are creating a host of dangers to our food supply. Now, it seems, science is making it much more difficult to ignore these facts.

A new study has found that American farmers have been forced to use more hazardous pesticides in their battle against weeds and insects due in large part to the heavy adoption of genetically modified crop technologies, which has sparked a rise of so-called "superweeds" and insects that are extremely hard to kill.

The rise in GM foods has led to an overall increase in pesticide use in general - by some 404 million pounds from the time they were introduced in 1996 through last year, says a report from Charles Benbrook, a researcher at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.

"Of that total," Reuters said, citing the report, "herbicide use increased over the 16-year period by 527 million pounds while insecticide use decreased by 123 million pounds."

Nearly two dozen weed species developing resistance

"Herbicide-tolerant crops worked extremely well in the first few years of use, but over-reliance led to shifts in weed communities and the emergence of resistant weeds that have, together, forced farmers to incrementally" increase application rates for herbicides, "spray more often," and "add new herbicides that work through an alternate mode-of-action into their spray programs," says the report, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe this month.

Benbrook's findings challenge the view that herbicide-tolerant crops and insect-protected crops were supposed to make it easier for farmers to kill weeds in their fields while protecting crops from being ravaged by pests.

Crops that were herbicide-protected were the first GM (genetically modified) crops introduced ever. Developed by the Monsanto Co. in 1996, "Roundup Ready" soybeans led the way, followed by corn, cotton and other crops.

"Roundup Ready crops are engineered through transgenic modification to tolerate dousing of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide," said Reuters.

Initially, the crops were popular with farmers who discovered they could kill weeds easily without incurring crop damage. That has changed in recent years; however, as more than two dozen species of weeds have developed a resistance to Roundup's primary ingredient glyphosate, which has caused farmers to use ever-increasing amounts of glyphosate and other weed-killing chemicals in an effort to control the superweeds.

"Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent," Benbrook said.

Things getting worse fast

Monsanto officials, not surprisingly, had no immediate comment when asked by Reuters about Benbrook's findings.

"We're looking at this. Our experts haven't been able to access the supporting data as yet," said Monsanto spokesman Thomas Helscher.

Approximately 95 percent of soybean and cotton acres, and more than 85 percent of corn, are planted to varieties genetically modified to be herbicide resistant, the report said.

"Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE (genetically engineered) crops, and they are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent," said Benbrook.

The research professor said the yearly boost in the amount of herbicides needed to handle harder-to-control weeds on genetically modified crops has risen from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to nearly 90 million pounds in 2011.

"Things are getting worse, fast," Benbrook told Reuters. "In order to deal with rapidly spreading resistant weeds, farmers are being forced to expand use of older, higher-risk herbicides. To stop corn and cotton insects from developing resistance to Bt, farmers planting Bt crops are being asked to spray the insecticides that Bt corn and cotton were designed to displace."

Adds Tom Philpott at Mother Jones: "The only question on GMOs and pesticide use Benbrook's paper leaves open is: When will Monsanto correct the absurd claim on its website that its highly lucrative technology has allowed farmers to cut back on herbicides?"

Good question.






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