Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Monsanto's Roundup.

The application of agricultural pesticides to crops across the world has created a huge problem of toxic pollution in our air, soil, watercourses and sea. Monsanto is trying to exploit this problem by promising that GM crops will largely do away with the necessity for pesticide applications. Biotech companies claim that GM crops will provide the magic bullet to feed the world, and that the number of pesticides, and the frequency of applications will be reduced.

'Friends of the Earth' have explored these claims and their analysis is very different. Below(in blue text) I quote from “who benefits from gm crops?” by Friends of the Earth,(January 2008).

…….”As in the past, virtually 100% of
world acreage planted with commercial GM crops have one or
both of just two traits: herbicide-tolerance and insect-resistance.
In the U.S., the world leader in GM crop production, companies are
focusing their development efforts on producing new herbicidetolerant
(HT) crops.Two of the fourGMcrops approved over the past
year and five of 12 new GM crops awaiting commercial approval
from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) are herbicide-tolerant.
Two of these crops in the pipeline are tolerant to two herbicides
rather than one, a new development driven by the spread of

1.2 gm crops increase pesticide use
Pesticides are chemicals that target weeds (herbicides), insects
(insecticides) or other pests. HT versions of soya, corn, cotton and
canola represent 4 of every 5 hectares (81%) of GM crops
worldwide. HT crops are ‘pesticide-promoting’ – that is they
encourage the development of herbicide-resistant weeds, which
in turn lead to yet more pesticide use.
HT crops allow farmers to spray a particular herbicide more
frequently and indiscriminately without fear of damaging the
crop. They also allow larger, wealthier farmers to cultivate more
acres with less labor, advancing the world-wide trend towards
fewer and bigger industrial-style farms.
Pesticide-promoting HT crops have spawned an epidemic of
herbicide-resistant weeds in the U.S., Argentina and Brazil,
thereby encouraging still greater use of chemicals to control
them. Pesticides have adverse health and environmental
impacts that GM agriculture is exacerbating.
It is no accident that agrichemical-biotech companies focus
development efforts on pesticide-promoting, HT crops: they
lead to increased sales of the chemicals these firms also sell.
Monsanto's Roundup
Ready soya is modified for resistance to the herbicide glyphosate.
It is the world’s most widely planted GM crop and it suffers from
a “yield drag”due in part to reduced uptake of essential nutrients.
Herbicide-tolerant crops are designed to permit “over-the-top”
application of chemical weed killers without killing the crop itself.
Their chief benefit has been convenience: HT crops allow farmers
to spray a particular herbicidemore frequently and indiscriminately
without fear of damaging the crop.They also allowlarger,wealthier
farmers to cultivate more acres with less labor, facilitating the
world-wide trend to fewer and bigger industrial-style farms. It is no
accident that GM soya is most prevalent in Argentina, a country
known for some of the largest soya plantations in theworld.
Just as bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, so weeds have
become resistant to weedkillers. Resistant weeds are not new,
but they have become much worse in the era of GM crops.
Roughly 99% of the world’s GM herbicide tolerant crops are
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready varieties, tolerant to the herbicide
glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto as Roundup). The
dramatically increased reliance on glyphosate with the
Roundup Ready system has spawned an epidemic of
glyphosate-resistant weeds.
In addition, there is increasing evidence that insect resistant
GM crops, which produce a toxin derived from Bt (Bacillus
thuringiensis) bacteria, do not provide a sustainable means of
decreasing the use of insecticides.
Although comprehensive data on pesticide use are difficult to
obtain in most countries, the available data and anecdotal
evidence demonstrate that pesticide use is on the rise:
the huge increase in glyphosate use in the united states.
In the US, the widespread adoption of Roundup Ready crops
combined with the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds
has driven a more than 15-fold increase in the use of
glyphosate on major field crops from 1994 to 2005. In 2006,
the last year for which data are available, glyphosate use on
soybeans jumped a substantial 28% (see Table 1). The
intensity of glyphosate use has also risen dramatically. From
1994 to 2006, the amount of glyphosate applied per acre of
soya rose by more than 150%, from just 0.52 to 1.33 lbs. per
acre per year.
glyphosate is not replacing other herbicides in the united states.
While farmers growing Roundup Ready crops initially used
lower quantities of herbicides other than glyphosate, that
trend has changed in recent years. Increasingly, farmers find it
necessary to apply both increased rates of glyphosate and
large quantities of other herbicides to kill resistant weeds.
From 2002 to 2006, use of the second-leading soya herbicide,
2,4-D, on soybeans more than doubled from 1.39 to 3.67
million lbs.,while glyphosate use on soybeans increased by 29
million lbs. (43% rise). Atrazine, banned in 2006 in the EU due
to its link to several health problems like endocrine
disruption, breast and prostate cancer, is the most heavilyapplied
corn herbicide in the US. While glyphosate use on
corn increased five-fold from 2002 to 2005, atrazine use rose
by nearly 7 million lbs. (12% increase), and aggregate
applications of the top four corn herbicides rose by 5%.
Clearly, glyphosate is not displacing the use of atrazine or
other leading corn herbicides.
steep increase in glyphosate-resistantweeds in the united states.
Of the 58 cases of new glyphosate-resistant weeds identified
in the last decade around the world, 31 were identified in the
US, which has the largest area in the world devoted to HT
crops. Thirty of those cases occurred between 2001 and 2007.
Experts agree that continuous planting of Roundup Ready
crops and over-reliance on glyphosate are to blame.
Documented glyphosate-resistant weeds now infest an
estimated 3,251 sites covering 1 million hectares. This
estimate does not include weeds with suspected resistance,
which are likely to infest a much larger area
rise of glyphosate use and weed resistance in brazil.
Data from Brazilian government agencies show that the
consumption of the 15 main active ingredients contained in
the most heavily used soya herbicides increased 60% from
2000 to 2005. The use of glyphosate increased 79.6% during
this period,much faster than the expansion in area planted to
Roundup Ready soya. In 2005 and 2006, three new weed
species have evolved resistance to glyphosate in Brazil.
Brazilian authorities have already recognized glyphosateresistant
weeds as amajor threat to the country’s agriculture.
• increase in glyphosate use and weed resistance in argentina.
In Argentina, herbicide use has increased dramatically in the
last decade with the progressive expansion in the area
planted to soya, nearly all of it GM Roundup Ready soya. In
2007, Argentine agricultural experts reported that a
glyphosate-resistant version of Johnson Grass now infests
over 120,000 ha of the country’s prime cropland. According to
the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Johnson Grass is
one of the worst weeds in the subtropics, and resistance to
glyphosate will make it all the harder to control. Experts
estimate that 25 million litres of herbicides other than
glyphosate will be needed to control the resistant weed,
resulting in an increase in production costs of between $160
to 950million per year. Despite this threat, Argentine officials
recently approved a new variety of glyphosate-resistant corn,
which is likely to exacerbate the problem.
• bt cotton does not reduce pesticide use in india. In 2007, the
Agro-Economic Research Centre of Andhra University
published a new study on pesticide use on GM cotton during
the 2004-05 season in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh.
The study concludes that Bt cotton farmers apply the same
quantity of pesticides, and spend the same amount on them,
as conventional cotton farmers.
secondary pests increase pesticide use in pakistan and indian
In 2007, infestation of cotton by secondary pests not
killed by the Bt cotton insecticide in Pakistan and the Indian
State of Punjab have dramatically increased the use of
pesticides and increased input costs for farmers.
herbicide-tolerant crops suffer “yield drag”: ISAAA maintains
that HT crops are neutralwith respect to yield, butmany studies
of Roundup Ready soya, the most widely planted GM crop,
suggest that it has on average 5-10% lower yield than
equivalent conventional varieties. Recent research has identified
at least one cause of this yield drag. Glyphosate hinders uptake
of essential nutrients like manganese in Roundup Ready soya,
both reducing yields and making plants more susceptible to
disease. Moreover, some countries like Paraguay have
experienced record low yields due to drought during 2005 and
2006, corroborating several reports that indicated that RR soya
was performingworse than conventional soya in dry conditions.
Figure 3 confirms stagnating yield in countries that have heavily
adopted Roundup Ready soya”.

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