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New Study Dispels Biotech Industry Claims of Pesticide Reduction

November 25, 2003

New USDA data has revealed that the widespread planting of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton, on million acres of U.S. farmland since 1996 has resulted in a dramatic increase in the use of pesticides over conventional crops. Contrary to the claims made by the agricultural biotech industry, a new study released today by the Northwest Science and Environmental Policy Center found that genetically e

New USDA data has revealed that the widespread planting of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton, on million acres of U.S. farmland since 1996 has resulted in a dramatic increase in the use of pesticides over conventional crops. Contrary to the claims made by the agricultural biotech industry, a new study released today by the Northwest Science and Environmental Policy Center found that genetically engineered crops have increased pesticide use by about 50 million pounds over the last three years when compared to conventional crops.

“This evidence should end the biotech industry’s erroneous claims that genetically engineered crops are better for the environment,” said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. “Not only do these crops do the opposite of industry claims by increasing pesticide use, they also threaten to reduce biodiversity, to create super weeds, to undermine farmers, and to harm human health.”

According to the report, from 1996 thru 1998, the first three years of commercial sales, engineered crops caused farmers to reduce pesticide use by about 25.4 million pounds. However, these gains have been short-lived. During the last three years, from 2001 thru 2003, farmers applied 73 million more pounds of pesticides to genetically engineered crops when compared to conventional cropland planted in conventional varieties of corn, soy and cotton. The net result is an additional 50 million pounds of pesticides applied to biotech croplands over three years.

The report follows in the wake of several recent findings challenging the usefulness and safety of genetically engineered crops: in October, U.K. researchers published the results of a study of the British countryside that shows genetically engineered crops have harmful effects on farmland biodiversity due to the heavy application of herbicides; in a report published in June 2002, researchers found a correlation between pesticide applicators exposed to glyphosate, or Roundup, the chief herbicide used on herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered crops, and developmental and birth defects in their children; and studies on U.S. cropland planted with crops genetically engineered to tolerate the Roundup herbicide show a growing problem of weeds becoming resistant to Roundup.

“Not just the environment suffers from having hundreds of millions of acres of cropland planted in genetically engineered crops,” added Mendelson. “The threat to the health farmers and farm workers from all this increased spraying of pesticides could be substantial.”

To view the report, click HERE.

ngineered crops have increased pesticide use by about 50 million pounds over the last three years when compared to conventional crops. "This evidence should end the biotech industry's erroneous claims that genetically engineered crops are better for the environment," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. "Not only do these crops do the opposite of industry claims by increasing pesticide use, they also threaten to reduce biodiversity, to create super weeds, to undermine farmers, and to harm human health." According to the report, from 1996 thru 1998, the first three years of commercial sales, engineered crops caused farmers to reduce pesticide use by about 25.4 million pounds. However, these gains have been short-lived. During the last three years, from 2001 thru 2003, farmers applied 73 million more pounds of pesticides to genetically engineered crops when compared to conventional cropland planted in conventional varieties of corn, soy and cotton. The net result is an additional 50 million pounds of pesticides applied to biotech croplands over three years. The report follows in the wake of several recent findings challenging the usefulness and safety of genetically engineered crops: in October, U.K. researchers published the results of a study of the British countryside that shows genetically engineered crops have harmful effects on farmland biodiversity due to the heavy application of herbicides; in a report published in June 2002, researchers found a correlation between pesticide applicators exposed to glyphosate, or Roundup, the chief herbicide used on herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered crops, and developmental and birth defects in their children; and studies on U.S. cropland planted with crops genetically engineered to tolerate the Roundup herbicide show a growing problem of weeds becoming resistant to Roundup. "Not just the environment suffers from having hundreds of millions of acres of cropland planted in genetically engineered crops," added Mendelson. "The threat to the health farmers and farm workers from all this increased spraying of pesticides could be substantial." To view the report, click HERE.