World Bulletin / News Desk
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.
Herbicide-tolerant crops were the first genetically modified crops introduced to world, rolled out by Monsanto Co. in 1996, first in "Roundup Ready" soybeans and then in corn, cotton and other crops. Roundup Ready crops are engineered through transgenic modification to tolerate dousings of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
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.
"We're looking at this. Our experts haven't been able to access the supporting data as yet," said Monsanto spokesman Thomas Helscher.
Benbrook said the annual increase in the herbicides required to deal with tougher-to-control weeds on cropland planted to genetically modified crops has grown from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to about 90 million pounds in 2011.
Similarly, the introduction of "Bt" corn and cotton crops engineered to be toxic to certain insects is triggering the rise of insects resistant to the crop toxin, according to Benbrook.
Insecticide use did drop substantially - 28 percent from 1996 to 2011 - but is now on the rise, he said.
"The relatively recent emergence and spread of insect populations resistant to the Bt toxins expressed in Bt corn and cotton has started to increase insecticide use, and will continue to do so," he said.
Herbicide-tolerant and Bt-transgenic crops now dominate U.S. agriculture, accounting for about one in every two acres of harvested cropland, and around 95 percent of soybean and cotton acres, and over 85 percent of corn acres.
"Things are getting worse, fast," said Benbrook in an interview. "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."
The technique involved transplanting what are known as olfactory ensheathing cells into the patient's spinal cord and constructing a "nerve bridge" between two stumps of the damaged spinal column.
The meeting in Cuba is aimed at keeping Ebola at bay and it brings together senior officials from the ALBA bloc of nations
Wildlife conservationists have struggled to reverse a decline in numbers of several African species, undermined by ferocious poaching by gangs which mostly ship the ivory to Asia.
Jerald Dennis is feeling stigmatized by his neighbors and has been shunned by his friends
Peru's 2,679 glaciers, spread over 19 snow-capped mountain ranges, are the source of the vast majority of the country's drinking water.
Some 85 percent of people said they thought the disease spread through sneezing or coughing, despite the fact that the World Health Organization regards that type of transmission as unlikely
No approved specific drug or treatment available for battling fatal pandemic virus hitting many West African countries
The death toll so far in the outbreak, first reported in Guinea in March, has reached 4,447 from a total of 8,914 cases, said WHO Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward.
The world's fifth-largest user of nuclear power has around 70 percent, or nearly 9,000 tonnes, of its used fuel stacked in temporary storage pools
The Supreme Council of Health said the infected was a 71-year-old Qatari national who suffered diabetes mellitus, according to the official Qatari news agency
Several airlines have cut flights to the region and there are reports of countries not allowing air ambulances to make refueling stops
A top U.N. official said response to a $1 billion funding appeal had been slow and that a surge in trained healthcare personnel was needed to tackle the crisis
The findings show the pressing need to detect lung cancer before it has shape-shifted into multiple malignant clones.
Second most severe warning issued for extremely heavy smog, air pollution enveloping capital Beijing, Hebei province.
One Ugandan has already died of the virus, which last appeared in the country two years ago killing six people
With already $1 billion invested in alternative sources of production, Sweden plans to produce more using renewable sources.