Dr Charles M. Benbrook
Genetically Engineered Crops
And Pesticide Use In The United States

USDA Survey Data

'Farmers Weekly'
USDA Data Shows GM Crops Use More Pesticides

"Farmers in the USA have increased their use of pesticides since the introduction of genetically modified crops, according to a new study. Washington State University professor Charles Benbrook has studied the use of crops that have been genetically modified for resistance to the glyphosate weedkiller, Roundup, produced by US biotech company Monsanto. Producers of GM crops, such as Monsanto, claim they require less chemicals as plants are engineered to repel crop pests, such as aphids. But the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, found that the use of herbicides in three GM crops - cotton, soya beans and maize, actually increased in the USA over the past two decades. Herbicide-tolerant crops worked extremely well in their early years, the study found. But in recent years, so-called 'superweeds' have become resistant to glyphosate - Roundup's main active ingredient. Superweeds such as horseweed, giant ragweed and pigweed are developing resistance to Roundup (glyphosate) and taking over millions of hectares in the USA. Since about the year 2000, farmers have used increasing amounts of Roundup and 'two or three additional herbicides' to fend off these resistant weeds, said Prof Benbrook. 'Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GM crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25%,' he added. Prof Benbrook estimated the use of GM crops had increased herbicide use by 239 million kg between 1996 and 2011. Overall, in this period pesticide use in the USA had increased by an estimated 183 million kg, equivalent to 7%, the study found. The research would appear to undermine claims from biotech companies, such as Monsanto, that GM crops need less chemicals - one of their major selling points. Farmers in the UK are banned from growing GM crops for commercial use, but two experimental field trials, of GM potatoes and a trial of GM wheat, began in 2012. GM crops do, however, enter Britain mainly as animal feed. Monsanto has so far not made an official comment on the findings of the study."
US farmers using more pesticides with GM crops
Farmers Weekly, 23 October 2012

Click Here For Summary Of 2012 Benbrook Findings

"Charles Benbrook is a pesticide policy expert who became involved in the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) debate in the early 1980s when it was still called 'Delaney reform.' Former executive director of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Board on Agriculture, he oversaw the 1987 NAS 'Delaney Paradox' report that set the framework for many FQPA provisions. Benbrook is now a consultant based in Sandpoint, ID, and is working as an analyst for the Consumers Union FQPA project. A report on alternatives to organophosphates (OPs) and carbamates is due out in September."
An 'alternative' view: Charles Benbrook on FQPA
Farm Chemicals, September 1998

"Charles Benbrook worked in Washington, D.C., on agricultural policy, science, and regulatory issues from 1979 through 1997, with roles as the agricultural staff expert on the Council for Environmental Quality, executive director of the subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, and executive director of the Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1998 he developed Ag BioTech InfoNet (www.biotech-info.net), one of the Internet's most extensive independent sources of technical, policy, and economic information on biotechnology. Currently Benbrook runs Benbrook Consultant Services, a small firm based in Sandpoint, Idaho. His activities include consulting for the Consumers Union to ensure implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act (www.ecologic-ipm.com/project.html), a key piece of legislation signed in 1996 that is prompting important changes in pesticide use patterns and pest management systems."
Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. - Biotechnology And The Nature Of Food
Northwestern University, 3 April 2004

Selected Benbrook Report Downloads

2012 Report (1.07m pdf)
Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Sixteen Years

2009 Report (3.7m pdf)
Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Thirteen Years

2004 Report (2.8m pdf)
Genetically Engineered Crops and Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Nine Years

2003 Report (869k pdf)
Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Eight Years

2001 Report (457k pdf)
Factors Shaping Trends in Corn Herbicide Use

(Including Impact of Herbicide-Tolerant Corn on Herbicide Use)

2001 Report (458k pdf)
Troubled Times Amid Commercial Success for Roundup Ready Soybeans
Glyphosate Efficacy is Slipping and Unstable Transgene Expression Erodes Plant Defenses and Yields (Executive Summary)

1999 Report (280k pdf)
Evidence of the Magnitude and Consequences of the Roundup Ready Soybean Yield Drag from University-Based Varietal Trials in 1998


"There have been dramatic changes in the transgenic composition of GE corn and soybeans over the last five years, coupled with a substantial increase in reliance on pesticides and Bt toxins. Compared to the first five years of commercial use (1996-2000), today’s GE corn and soybeans in the U.S. require: * About twice as much herbicide per acre, with glyphosate/Roundup accounting for essentially all the growth; * In corn, two to six Bt toxins to deal with European corn borer and the corn rootworm complex;  * Delayed release, systemic seed treatments including at least two insecticides and two fungicides, one of which is a nicotinyl implicated in honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder; * A return to corn soil insecticide use as a component of Bt-gene, resistance-management programs (eroding a portion of the reduction in insecticide use brought about by Bt corn); * Significant and historically unprecedented increases in fungicide use on corn (11 percent of crop acres were treated in latest USDA pesticide use survey [2010], no more than 1 percent was treated previously); and *Approval and commercial planting in the U.S. of the first GE crop that will be consumed in significant quantities by humans in a largely unprocessed form – Bt and RR sweetcorn."
Dr Charles Benbrook - GE Crop Risk Assessment Challenges: An Overview
Food Safety News, 6 May 2013

"Growing weed resistance has increased the total volume of pesticides applied to U.S. farms. A Washington State University study by long-time GE crop and herbicide researcher Dr. Charles Benbrook found that herbicide use has actually increased by 527 million pounds since the introduction of GE crops in 1996, and will only continue to rise with the introduction of new herbicide-tolerant crops. A Penn State University weed scientist predicted that efforts to control newly resistant weeds could increase pesticide use 70 percent by 2015....  Food & Water Watch examined the USDA and EPA herbicide data and found that herbicide use has grown steadily since the introduction of GE crops. This analysis elaborates on Dr. Benbrook’s research by focusing on other herbicides that will be used in the GE herbicide-tolerant crop pipeline and projecting the increased use under the anticipated cultivation if the USDA approves the crops.... After herbicide resistance, the second most prevalent GE trait in corn and cotton is insect resistance. The most common variety contains a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) soil bacterium gene, in the tissue of the plant, designed to repel the European corn borer and several cotton bollworms. The amount of Bt toxin expressed in insect-resistant corn is actually 19 times the amount of conventional insecticide necessary to target the same pests by applying it to the surface of the plant. Yet, this 'plant-incorporated protectant' expressed in every cell of each Bt crop is not counted in the USDA and EPA measurements of total insecticide applications. Dr. Benbrook reports that stable declines in insecticide use from the introduction of Bt crops are now 'in jeopardy' as insects developed resistance to the biotech toxin."
Superweeds - How Biotech Crops Bolster The Pesticide Industry
Food & Water Watch, July 2013


"U.S. farmers are using more hazardous pesticides to fight weeds and insects due largely to heavy adoption of genetically modified crop technologies that are sparking a rise of 'superweeds' and hard-to-kill insects, according to a newly released study.Genetically engineered crops have led to an increase in overall pesticide use, by 404 million pounds from the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011, according to the report by Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.... Of that total, herbicide use increased over the 16-year period by 527 million pounds while insecticide use decreased by 123 million pounds. Benbrook's paper -- published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe over the weekend and announced on Monday -- undermines the value of both herbicide-tolerant crops and insect-protected crops, which were aimed at making it easier for farmers to kill weeds in their fields and protect crops from harmful pests, said Benbrook.... The crops were a hit with farmers who found they could easily kill weed populations without damaging their crops. But in recent years, more than two dozen weed species have become resistant to Roundup's chief ingredient glyphosate, causing farmers to use increasing amounts both of glyphosate and other weedkilling chemicals to try to control the so-called '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. Monsanto officials had no immediate comment."
Pesticide use ramping up as GMO crop technology backfires: study
Reuters, 2 October 2012

"A study published this week by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook finds that the use of herbicides in the production of three genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops -- cotton, soybeans and corn -- has actually increased. This counterintuitive finding is based on an exhaustive analysis of publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service. Benbrook's analysis is the first peer-reviewed, published estimate of the impacts of genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant (HT) crops on pesticide use. In the study, which appeared in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, Benbrook writes that the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory in herbicide use. Marketed as Roundup and other trade names, glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds. 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. 'Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and they are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,' Benbrook said. The annual increase in the herbicides required to deal with tougher-to-control weeds on cropland planted to GE cultivars has grown from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to about 90 million pounds in 2011."
'Superweeds' Linked to Rising Herbicide Use in GM Crops, Study Finds
ScienceDaily, 2 October 2012

"Genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant and insect-resistant crops have been remarkable commercial successes in the United States. Few independent studies have calculated their impacts on pesticide use per hectare or overall pesticide use, or taken into account the impact of rapidly spreading glyphosate-resistant weeds. Contrary to often-repeated claims that today's genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%. The magnitude of increases in herbicide use on herbicide-resistant hectares has dwarfed the reduction in insecticide use on Bt crops over the past 16 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future."
Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years
Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:24 - Published: 28 September 2012

"Planting GM crops has led to an increase rather than a decrease in the use of pesticides in the last 16 years, according to US scientists. The researchers said that the plants have caused superweeds and toxin-resistant insects to emerge, meaning farmers have not only had to use more pesticides on their crops overall, but are also using older and more dangerous chemicals. The findings dramatically undermine the case for adopting the crops, which were sold to farmers and shoppers on the basis that they would reduce the need to be treated with powerful chemicals. The team at Washington State University found the weight of chemicals used on US farms has increased by 183million kilos since GM crops were introduced in 1996. Of that total, herbicide use increased over the 16-year period by 239 million kilos while insecticide use decreased by 56 million kilos. Most GM crops produced to date – such as corn, soya and cotton – have been modified in the laboratory to make them immune to certain weedkillers, such as Monsanto’s RoundUp. It means the GM plants can thrive while the surrounding weeds are wiped out. However, the reality is that a number of weeds have developed an immunity to the chemical and are now able to swamp farmers’ fields. The biggest threats are giant ragweed and pigweed, which grows at a rate of more than one inch a day and reaches a height of three metres. The so-called perfect superweed is extremely hardy, produces 10,000 seeds at a time and will smother food crops in the same field. The overall effect is that desperate farmers are now using a cocktail of many different chemicals to try and tame the weeds. A number of GM plants, including some types of corn, have been modified to include a toxin called Bt that kills predator insects that feed on them. But again, these insects are developing an immunity to the toxin included in the plants, which means farmers have to resort to chemical sprays. Study leader Professor Charles Benbrook, of the university’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, said: ‘Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GM crops and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 per cent. .... Professor Benbrook’s paper is published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe and comes two weeks after a feeding trial in rats raised concerns that consuming GM corn might trigger a rise in breast cancer and organ damage."
How GM crops have increased the use of danger pesticides and created superweeds and toxin-resistant insects
Mail, 3 October 2012


"The rapid adoption by U.S. farmers of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton has promoted increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds and more chemical residues in foods, according to a report issued Tuesday by health and environmental protection groups. The groups said research showed that herbicide use grew by 383 million pounds from 1996 to 2008, with 46 percent of the total increase occurring in 2007 and 2008. The report was released by nonprofits The Organic Center (TOC), the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS). The groups said that while herbicide use has climbed, insecticide use has dropped because of biotech crops. They said adoption of genetically engineered corn and cotton that carry traits resistant to insects has led to a reduction in insecticide use by 64 million pounds since 1996. Still, that leaves a net overall increase on U.S. farm fields of 318 million pounds of pesticides, which includes insecticides and herbicides, over the first 13 years of commercial use. The rise in herbicide use comes as U.S. farmers increasingly adopt corn, soy and cotton that have been engineered with traits that allow them to tolerate dousings of weed killer. The most popular of these are known as 'Roundup Ready' for their ability to sustain treatments with Roundup herbicide and are developed and marketed by world seed industry leader Monsanto Co. Monsanto rolled out the first biotech crop, Roundup Ready soybeans, in 1996.... The report by the environmental groups states that a key problem resulting from the increase in herbicide use is the emergence of 'super weeds,' which are difficult to kill because they have become resistant to the herbicides. '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,' said Charles Benbrook, chief scientist of The Organic Center. The groups additionally criticized the agricultural biotechnology industry for claiming that higher costs for genetically engineered seeds are justified by multiple benefits to farmers, including decreased spending on pesticides. The group said biotech corn seed prices in 2010 could be almost three times the cost of conventional seed, while new enhanced biotech soybean seed for 2010 could be 42 percent more than the original biotech version. 'This report confirms what we've been saying for years,' said Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety. 'The most common type of genetically engineered crops promotes increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of resistant weeds, and more chemical residues in our foods. This may be profitable for the biotech/pesticide companies, but it's bad news for farmers, human health and the environment.'"
Biotech crops cause big jump in pesticide use: report
Reuters, 17 November 2009

"One of the claims supporting biotech seed may not be true - that genetically enhanced seed means using less herbicide, [Charles Benbrook] said. 'Roundup Ready tends to reduce herbicide use for two to three years, but then there starts to be a shift in the weed community,' he said. That shift involves weed resistance - resistance that grows every year, said Benbrook. 'Illinois farmers are dealing with two to three different (glyphosate) resistant weeds,' he said. 'Our research shows that for every acre of Roundup Ready seed applied, two-thirds to three-quarters of a pound more herbicide per acre is used than conventional seed. 'Farmers are just beginning to deal with a serious resistance problem,' he said. Outbreaks of so-called 'superweeds' that defy herbicide treatments will become more common, said Benbrook. 'That's the future for central Illinois.'....While resistance is one issue farmers will face, another is the rising cost of putting a crop - whether corn or soybeans - in the ground. Seed and fertilizer costs went up 40 percent between 2003 to 2007, said Dale Laatz, U of I Extension farm financial management specialist. Farm income also rose in that period, especially in central Illinois, he said. In 2008, the average net farm income for the state's central region, an area that includes Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties, was $255,900, the highest in the state, said Laatz. Genetically modified seed is also reaching new heights, said Benbrook. 'You're probably looking at the first $300 bag (for about 50 pounds) of (corn) seed this year. Farmers that used to spend between $15 and $20 a pound on seed per acre are now spending $100,' he said."
Attack of the Superweeds
Peoria Journal Star, Illinois, 6 April 2009

"Official U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) surveys are the source of most of the data used in this report on the acres planted to each GE trait in corn, soybeans, and cotton.... Pesticide use data come from annual surveys done by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)....HT [herbicide tolerant] crops have increased herbicide use by a total of 382.6 million pounds over 13 years. HT soybeans increased herbicide use by 351 pounds (about 0.55 pound per acre), accounting for 92% of the total increase in herbicide use across the three HT crops....Recently herbicide use on GE acres has veered sharply upward. Crop years 2007 and 2008 accounted for 46% of the increase in herbicide use over 13 years across the three HT crops. Herbicide use on HT crops rose a remarkable 31.4% from 2007 to 2008. GE crops reduced overall pesticide use in the first three years of commercial introduction (1996-1998) by 1.2%, 2.3%, and 2.3% per year, but increased pesticide use by 20% in 2007 and by 27% in 2008. Two major factors are driving the trend toward larger margins of difference in the pounds of herbicides used to control weeds on an acre planted to HT seeds, in comparison to conventional seeds: • The emergence and rapid spread of weeds resistant to glyphosate, and • Incremental reductions in the average application rate of herbicides applied on non-GE crop acres.... The USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) has collated NASS figures on the percentage of crop acres for each GE category from 1996 to present....A report by the ERS was issued in May 2002 entitled Adoption of Bioengineered Crops........This 2002 ERS report concluded that herbicide use on HT soybeans went up in 1998 because 13.4 million pounds of glyphosate were substituted for 11.1 million pounds of other herbicides. The ERS projection of a 2.3 million pound increase in herbicide pounds applied on HT acres is also very close to the 2.2 million pound increase based on the methodology used in this report."
Benbrook, C -  Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Thirteen Years
The Organic Center, November 2009


"Eight years of planting genetically modified maize, cotton and soya beans in the US has significantly increased the amount of herbicides and pesticides used, according to a US report which could influence the British government over whether to let GM crops be grown. The most comprehensive study yet made of chemical use on genetically modified crops draws on US government data collected since commercialisation of the crops began...... Charles Benbrook, the author of the report, who is also head of the Northwest Science and Environment Policy Centre, at Sandpoint, Idaho, found that when first introduced most of the crops needed up to 25% fewer chemicals for the first three years, but afterwards significantly more. In 2001, the report states, 5% more herbicides and insecticides were sprayed compared with crops only of non-GM varieties; in 2002 7.9% more was sprayed; and in 2003 the estimated rise was 11.5%. In total, £73m lb [pounds weight] more agrochemicals were sprayed in the US during 2001-2003 because of GM crops, says the report, which was commissioned by Iowa State University, the Consumers' Union and others. During 2002-2003, an average of 29% more herbicide was applied per acre on GM maize. But this trend was not sustained over the eight years. Overall, modest reductions in insecticide usage with maize and cotton were recorded..... [Former executive director of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Board on Agriculture] Dr Benbrook said: 'The proponents of biotechnology claim GM varieties substantially reduce pesticide use. While true in the first few years of widespread planting ... it is not the case now. There's now clear evidence that the average pounds of herbicides applied per acre planted to herbicide-tolerant varieties have increased compared to the first few years."
GM crops linked to rise in pesticide use
Guardian, 8 January 2004


"Monsanto’s recommended RR ['Roundup Ready] corn systems include several optional herbicide programs ranging from a total glyphosate system, to systems combining a pre- or at-plant residual herbicide followed by Roundup post-emergence, or total post-emergence program involving applications of a residual post-product plus Roundup (Monsanto, 2000a and 2000b). In the total Roundup program, glyphosate is applied on average about 2.0 times. In 1999 the average application was about 0.7 pounds, resulting in 1.4 pounds Roundup applied on the average acre of RR corn. An estimated 70% of RR corn acres were managed under the 'Residual Herbicide Applied' program. Either before or at-planting in such programs, farmers apply a tank-mix containing a residual broadleaf product like atrazine at about 0.8 pounds per acre, plus an acetanilide herbicide at a rate of about 1.2 pounds per acre on average, mostly forgrass weed control (see recommended rates on either Roundup labels or the labels of several herbicide products containing mixtures of atrazine and an acetanilide). Total corn herbicide use under the 'Residual Herbicide Applied' program averages about 2.75 pounds per acre, with Roundup accounting for 0.75 pounds of this total.USDA data suggest that average per acre use on RR corn acres has risen from about 2.5 pounds in 1999 to 2.75 pounds in 2000 (Benbrook, 2001b). On conventional acres, about 2.25 pounds were applied in 1999 and 2.08 pounds in 2000. Accordingly, in 2000 the average RR corn acre was treated with about 30% more herbicide than the average non-GM corn acre."
Royal Society of Chemistry, Pesticide Outlook, October 2001

"Lessons learned from five-decades of insecticide-based cotton pest management are relevant in assessing the likely longer-run impacts of GM crops on pesticide use. The OP, carbamate and synthetic pyrethroid doom-tobust cycles each lasted about a decade. Despite today’s Btcrop... The greatest long-term pest management benefits from agricultural biotechnology may well be process- and management based, as opposed to product-based.  [i.e. non GM biotech] Sophisticated pest management systems in the future will rely on biotech to help evoke, and sometimes strengthen, natural plant defense mechanisms. Biotech will make it possible for farmers to subtly tip the competitive balance within agricultural systems toward beneficial organisms at the expense of pests (for a review of promising technologies, see Benbrook,2000). It will expand the range and deepen the effect of a new era of 'countermeasures' that together might finally pull the plug on the pesticide treadmill."
Royal Society of Chemistry, Pesticide Outlook, October 2001

Dr Benbrook's Work Appears To Have Made Some People Unhappy
USDA Pesticide Data Collection Was Cancelled By Bush Administration

"The Bush administration’s crackdown on the public’s right to know continues: Officials at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have quietly closed down the only federal program that tracks the types and quantities of chemical pesticides and fertilizers being used by America’s farmers. Since 1990, the USDA’s statistical wing has published annual surveys detailing the chemicals that farmers spray on our food. The reports are a vital source of information for government regulators, environmental activists and industry analysts - but in recent years, agency chiefs have begun to dismantle the program. Last year, officials ordered staff to gather chemical-usage data only for cotton and apple crops; this year, they’ve gone further still, saying they can no longer afford the program’s $8 million price-tag and won’t be collecting any data whatsoever for the 2008 growing season. The decision to scrap the program has caused panic among researchers who rely on the data. They say there’s simply no alternative to the federal reports: Private companies that collect similar information charge up to $500,000 a year for their services, putting them out of reach of most government agencies and all academic or non-profit researchers.....The absence of proper data will also impact on the ability of journalists, environmental activists, and the general public to push for tighter controls on pesticide use; after all, it’s hard to demand limits on pollutants if you don’t know they’re there. 'Without [the USDA] data, all the policy issues and debates that have been going on for the last 15 or 20 years over pesticide use would be based largely on speculation,' says Charles Benbrook, chief scientist for the non-profit Organic Group. Lawmakers on the Senate’s Appropriations Committee are working to reinstate the chemical monitoring program; earlier this year they ordered agency officials to reverse their decision and warned them not to cancel any other data-gathering activities without first informing Congress. Still, that ticking-off won’t carry much weight unless both the Senate and the House pass it into law - and that could be a long process."
USDA stops tracking chemicals
Plenty Magazine, August 2008

Obama Administration Restores Pesticide Survey

"Pesticide use data come from annual surveys done by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)..... NASS has dramatically scaled back its program in recent years. First, NASS replaced its annual surveys of major fi eld crops with less frequent ones beginning in 2002. Then, in the 2007 growing season, data collection was limited to just two crops—cotton and apples. NASS did not collect pesticide use data on any crops during the 2008 growing season, citing a shortage of funds and the availability of private sector survey data as reasons for cutting the program. Of the three major crops covered in this report, NASS data are available in most years for cotton through 2007, through 2006 for soybeans, and through 2005 for corn. The absence of a continuous series of NASS data since 2005 for the three major GE crops hampers the ability of independent analysts and government scientists to track the performance and impacts of GE crops. The lack of NASS pesticide-use data covering recent crop years is a special concern, given the dramatic impact of resistant weeds on the number and volume of herbicides applied to HT crops. USDA’s decision to drop the pesticide-use surveys led to strong protests from a wide range of groups, including The Organic Center, Center for Food Safety, Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and many other organizations, including several with close ties to the pesticide industry. In 2008, the administrator of the EPA voiced concern to the Secretary of Agriculture about the loss of NASS data, joining several government offi cials at the state and federal levels. In May, 2009, the new USDA leadership announced the reinstatement of the program, beginning with the fruit and nut survey in the fall of 2009."
Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Thirteen Years
The Organic Center, November 2009

Other Updates

"The area of U.S. cropland infested with glyphosate-resistant weeds has expanded to 61.2 million acres in 2012, according to a survey conducted by Stratus Agri-Marketing. Nearly half (49%) of all U.S. farmers interviewed reported that glyphosate-resistant weeds were present on their farm in 2012, up from 34% of farmers in 2011. The survey also indicates that the rate at which glyphosate-resistant weeds are spreading is gaining momentum, increasing 25% in 2011 and 51% in 2012. The Stratus Glyphosate Resistance Tracking study is conducted annually. It’s now in its third year. In 2012, Stratus completed interviews with nearly 3,000 farmers during the summer and fall. 'We asked farmers to share their experiences with glyphosate resistance on their farms and we’re clearly seeing the problem intensify,' explains Stratus Agri-Marketing vice president Kent Fraser. Increases were reported in most states but especially in the Midwest. Not only are glyphosate-resistant weeds spreading geographically, the problem is also intensifying with multiple species now resistant on an increasing number of farms. 'There is a very high rate of resistance in the southern states like Georgia where 92% of growers reported having glyphosate-resistant weeds,' reports Fraser. 'And we’re also seeing the problem intensify in the midwest. In Illinois, 43% of farmers reported having glyphosate-resistant weeds in 2012.' Marestail (horseweed) was the weed species most commonly reported as resistant to glyphosate herbicides, followed by Palmer amaranth (pigweed). Other glyphosate-resistant weed species were also tracked in the study. In 2012, 27% of U.S. farmers reported multiple glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm, up from 15% in 2011 and 12% in 2010. For more insights from the Stratus Glyphosate Resistance Tracking study visit http://www.stratusresearch.com/blog07.htm "
Glyphosate-resistant weed problem extends to more species, more farms
Farm Industry News, 29 January 2013

"Using genetic engineering to endow corn with protection against pesky weeds and insects was supposed to cut back on use of agricultural chemicals and the risk they pose to the environment. But the recently released report on 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use from the National Agricultural Statistics Service carries at least one major twist on the pesticide pattern in Nebraska. Even as use of the popular weed killer atrazine held close to the level it was at for corn in 2003, the glyphosate option more commonly known as Roundup has gone from about 1.25 million pounds in 2003 to almost 3 million pounds in 2005 and to 7.1 million pounds last year. The major spike means more farmers have been choosing corn varieties that carry resistance to Roundup and other products with glyphosate as their active ingredient in the seed sack. That makes them a biotechnology tool in a weed-killing approach in which the chemical can then attack both grass and broad-leaf invaders without hurting the corn. But as McCool Junction crop consultant Bill Dunavan and other weed-wise observers in Nebraska know, Roundup has not held on to its reputation for being the only herbicide treatment farmers would need for the whole growing season. In fact, resistance to glyphosate has been showing up in such common invaders as mare's tail, and atrazine remains a prominent second treatment in the weed arsenal to combat resistance -- and to keep more weeds from becoming resistant.... The 2010 report put total Nebraska pounds at about 5.5 million, down from 7 million in 1997. But atrazine use on corn was as high as 7.4 million pounds as recently as 2005..... Lowell Sandell, a weed science specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said earlier claims that biotechnology would dramatically cut chemical use have not proven especially true on the weed side. 'I would suspect that the whole level, the total level of use, would be roughly similar,' Sandell said. 'The biggest shift has been from non-Roundup ready crops to Roundup ready crops'. The university strongly backs the idea of using more than one strategy to control weeds, he said. Roundup is 'a very good product, but with the development of glyphosate-resistant weed species, one of the things the university always tries to promote is an integrated management approach -- which is multiple effective means of action.' Randy Pryor, based in Wilber as an NU Extension educator, said Nebraska is certainly not the only place where resistant weeds are turning up. 'Other states are documenting other weeds that are now truly resistant to Roundup,' Pryor said."
Insecticide usage down, herbicides not so much
Lincoln Star Journal (Nebraska), 29 May 2011

"According to the 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use Report released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), use of the herbicide glyphosate, associated with genetically engineered (GE) crops, has dramatically increased over the last several years, while the use of other even more toxic chemicals such as atrazine has not declined. Contrary to common claims from chemical manufacturers and proponents of GE technology that the proliferation of herbicide tolerant GE crops would result in lower pesticide use rates, the data show that overall use of pesticides has remained relatively steady, while glyphosate use has skyrocketed to more than double the amount used just five years ago. The 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use Report shows that, in the states surveyed, 57 million pounds of glyphosate were applied last year on corn fields. Ten years prior, in 2000, this number was only 4.4 million pounds, and in 2005, it was still less than half of current numbers at 23 million pounds. Intense corn growing regions have experienced an even greater increase in glyphosate applications. Glyphosate use in the state of Nebraska increased by more than five times in just seven years, going from 1.25 million pounds applied in 2003 to more than seven million pounds last year. GE proponents have often said that, even if farmers are increasingly reaching for glyphosate, this simply means that they are using less of more toxic weed killers like atrazine. However, the data tell a different story. In 2000, 54 million pounds of atrazine were applied across surveyed states. With glyphosate use increasing by more than five times between 2000 and 2005, atrazine use should have significantly declined over this period. However, the total pounds applied actually increased by more than three million, to 57.4 million total pounds applied across surveyed states in 2005. By 2010, atrazine use had just barely declined, with 51 million pounds still being applied, only slightly less than the 57 million pounds of glyphosate applied. Such widespread use of atrazine is a concern due to the chemical’s links with serious human health effects, including birth defects and disruption of the endocrine and reproductive systems. Additionally, it is a major threat to wildlife as it can harm the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic species. The rise in glyphosate applications has almost certainly come as a result of farmers increasingly planting GE crops such as corn and soybeans, which are engineered to be resistant to the chemical....Coupled with the dramatic rise in glyphosate applications has been the spread of wild plant species that are resistant to the herbicide. Over-application and over-reliance by farmers on glyphosate to solve all of their weed problems has led to the proliferation of so-called “superweeds” which have evolved to survive the treatments through repeated exposure. The most common species which have evolved these traits include pigweed (palmer amaranth), mare’s tail, and ryegrass. The spread of resistance is what has led farmers to increasingly rely on more toxic alternative mixtures including weed killers like atrazine. There has also been an increased push by chemical companies to engineer seed varieties that are resistant to multiple herbicide treatments, such as glyphosate and 2,4-D, or glyphosate and acetochlor."
Despite Industry Claims, Herbicide Use Fails to Decline with GE Crops
Beyond Pesticides, 3 June 2011

GM Crop 'Reality Check' Archives

'Will GM Crops Deliver Benefits To Farmers?'

USDA Report Exposes GM Crop Economics Myth

More USDA Data On Rising Pesticide Applications On GM Crops

The Fundamental Scientific Error
Of Pursuing Transgenics Before Competency In Genomics


Solution To The GM Debate? - 'The Acceptable Face Of Ag-biotech'

"GE crops available for commercial use do not increase the yield potential of a variety... the adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans does not have a statistically significant effect on net returns.... the soybean results appear to be inconsistent with the rapid adoption of this [GE] technology....An analysis using broader financial performance measures (including net farm income and return on assets) did not show GE crops to have a significant impact..... Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative.....Even more puzzling, the adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans and Bt corn has been rapid, even though we could not find positive financial impacts in either the field-level nor the whole-farm analysis.....the adoption of Bt corn had a negative impact on the farm financial performance....the total herbicide pounds used on [GE] soybeans actually increased as glyphosate was substituted for conventional herbicides... the data indicate that an estimated 13.4 million pounds of glyphosate substituted for 11.1 million pounds of other synthetic herbicides..... Change in pesticide use from the adoption of herbicide-tolerant cotton was not significant.....Availability, since the 1980s, of postemergent herbicides that could be applied over a crop during the growing season has facilitated the use of no-till ... using herbicide tolerant seed did not significantly affect no-till adoption. "
'The Adoption of Bioengineered Crops'
US Department of Agriculture Report, May 2002

GM Technology In Food Production Is Unnecessary
There Are Better Biotechnology Alternatives Which Are Publicly Acceptable Such As Marker Assisted Selection

"There's a lot of technology we could look at, even if Europe didn't look at GM for life. GM only accounts for about 1% of what we spend money on right now. It's not an awful lot. It's all experimental, not commerical. I think the big revolution is in systems biology; about the use of genomics, understanding the use of metabolites and proteins use in a plant, as well as 'transcriptomics' - the expression of genes and how these genes function. For example, marker- assisted selection is making plant breeding an awful lot easier by being able to pinpoint specific genes we need."
Professor Maurice Maloney, Director of the Rothamstead Research Institute, the body in charge of controversial GM wheat trials in Britain, responding to the question 'Where do you believe the technologies for pushing production might come from in the future given that GM is not palatable in the EU and that agrochemical actives are under increased pressure of de-listing'
Research Revolution
Farmers Weekly, 18 May 2012, Print Edition, P22

"There are a lot of new breeding technologies today that don't use GM food. You can do a lot of things without GM .... We [Nestlé] have a very simple way of looking at GM: listen to what the consumer wants. If they don't want it in products, you don't put it in them."
Hans Johr, corporate head of sustainable agriculture at Nestle
Food Navigator, 30 August 2012

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