Report reveals dramatic rise in pesticide use on genetically modified crops

17 November 2009

Brussels, November 17 - A new report out today has dispelled the biotech industry's claim that genetically modified (GM) crops need fewer pesticides. The seminal report by Dr. Charles Benbrook [1], presents hard data proving once and for all that chemical use has increased dramatically since the introduction of genetic engineering, raising concern over any introduction of new GM crops in Europe.

Based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), report author Dr. Charles Benbrook presents compelling evidence linking the increase in pesticide use on GM 'herbicide-tolerant' crops to the emergence and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds.

"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 of The Organic Center. "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."

The report finds that genetically modified maize, soy and cotton have seen increased use of pesticides - by about 144 000 tonnes (318 million pounds) over the first 13 years of commercial use. This report comes at a time when U.S. farmers are increasingly critical of GM crops because of drastically rising biotech seed prices and increasingly resistant weeds.

"Today's report refutes industry's assertions that its crops have reduced pesticide use. It debunks the myth put forward by the powerful biotech industry propaganda by showing that GM crops drastically increase pesticide use, polluting the environment, contaminating our food and severely damaging farmers economically. Genetic engineering does not benefit farmers, consumers, the environment and society as a whole but only a handful of pesticide and seed companies," said Marco Contiero, Greenpeace sustainable agriculture policy director.

"This report is a strong warning to Europe's leaders and farmers that if these crops are grown in the European Union, farmers will lose money and have to deal with uncontrollable weeds," said Helen Holder, Friends of the Earth Europe GMO campaign coordinator. "The increase in herbicide use linked to GM crops has also been acknowledged by the European Agency in charge of environmental safety and this must be taken on board when the European Union reviews the socio-economic impacts of growing GM crops next year"


[1] The report, entitled "Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years" is published by US-based The Organic Center (TOC), the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS). See: