Genetically modified (GMO) crops are touted by their multi-million dollar companies to reduce not just pest problems but also pesticide use. Looks like that’s far from true according to recent news out of Illinois and two reports by the Center for Food Safety and The Organic Center respectively.
In Illinois, researchers have examined fields in two counties and found that rootworms, one of the most devastating corn rootworm species in North America, are growing increasingly resilient to efforts to fight them off, reports Reuters. Rootworm damage to crops has been found in soybean fields planted in rotation with a GMO corn that is supposed to protect crops against such damage.
The GMO corn is produced by none other than Monsanto and contains an insecticidal protein called “Cry3Bb1” that is supposed to kill rootworm. The product launched in 2003 and by 2011 was grown on nearly 37 million acres of farmland.
News of this GMO corn failure is not the only thing to worry about. New generations of genetically engineered (GE) crops of all kinds are projected to significantly increase pesticide use.
The Center for Food Safety estimates that with the introduction of new GE soybeans to U.S. fields, there will be a four-fold rise in the national use of the herbicide isoxaflutole (IFT), which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a probable human carcinogen.
Next generation GE soybeans made by Bayer have recently been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The crops were engineered to be resistant to the IFT herbicide.
“Bayer and other biotech companies are now poised to introduce a host of ‘next-generation’ GE crops resistant to more toxic herbicides as a false ‘solution’ to massive weed resistance. But their effect will be to generate still more intractable weeds resistant to multiple herbicides,” said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety.
GE crops have already been proven to increase of use of another herbicide called glyphosate. Its use in some U.S. fields has even wiped out milkweed plants and contributed to a dramatic decline in Monarch butterfly populations.
In fact, between 1996 and 2008, GE corn, soybeans and cotton have increased the use of weed-killing herbicides by 383 million pounds, according to a report issued by the Organic Center.
“The drastic increase in pesticide use with genetically engineered crops is due primarily to the rapid emergence of weeds resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide,” said Dr. Charles Benbrook, Organic Center report author and chief scientist. “With glyphosate-resistant weeds now infesting millions of acres, farmers face rising costs coupled with sometimes major yield losses, and the environmental impact of weed management systems will surely rise.”
With GMO crops failing to solve pest problems and increasing pesticide use, it makes you wonder why we are turning to them as solutions in the first place. Wouldn’t less risky and more simplistic farming methods be better in the long term? Tell us what you think. Share your thoughts about GMOs below and offer your suggestions for how to combat pest problems and pesticide use.
Image source: Lindsay Eyink / Wikipedia Commons