Pesticides and food: It’s not a black and white issue

Special 6-part series starting on

FIRST ARTICLE: Has pesticide use decreased over the last 40 years?

GMO crops increase yields, benefit the environment

| | November 19, 2014

Among the winners in this month’s elections were foods containing genetically modified organisms. And, it’s possible that labeling laws, if passed, would have decreased the amount of farmland, in the U.S. and abroad, given over to modified crops. That was the goal of many labeling proponents in recently lost ballot initiatives, and a new study suggests it would have been a bad result.

The study doesn’t look at the health effects of GMOs. Thousands of independent studies have already done so and found that GMOs are perfectly safe to eat. The new research instead looks at the costs and benefits for agriculture and the environment, a question on which there is less consensus.

The new study, in the journal PLOS One, comes down strongly on the pro-GMO side. It’s a meta-analysis that aggregates and examines the results of 147 existing research studies looking at GM soybeans, maize and cotton, the world’s biggest GM commodity crops. The authors, a pair of agricultural economists at Germany’s University of Göttingen, found that GM technology increased crop yields by 22 percent, reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, and increased farmer profits by 68 percent.

A few details jump out from the study. For one, the benefits were greater in those GM crops that produced their own pesticides rather than those engineered for herbicide resistance—the latter trait has been hugely convenient for farmers, but has also shown a greater rebound effect as weed species evolved resistance to the chosen herbicides.

The yield and profit gains were also greater in developing countries than in developed countries.

Read the full original story: How GMO Crops Can Be Good for the Environment

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.

7 thoughts on “GMO crops increase yields, benefit the environment”

  1. As someone who grew up on a farm in Nebraska, I can tell you that the second my dad tried to reduce pesticides on the GM crops, they started to suffer. Anyone in the farming community will tell you that GMOs are not a silver bullet that can magically lead to a significant reduction in pesticides.

  2. Reducing pesticides by growing the pesticide inside the plants is not a true reduction. All the GM industry is doing is reducing the effectiveness of bacillus thuringiensis that was used sparingly by the organic industry by massively increasing its use inside the plant. Just as the massive use of the three main herbicides has created superweeds so to has BTs effectiveness as a pesticide been put at risk. Furthermore whereas the organic industry applies BT as a dust which breaks down in sunlight the GM adaption of plants to include BT in their structure means it does not break down and it is eaten by consumers of the crops.To claim that there has been no proof of toxic effects of GM crops is simply not true. There have been toxins found in modified peas grown by the West Australian Department of Agriculture and other studies going fight back to the Arpad Pusztai and the potatoes that caused organ damage when fed to animals.The regime now used to test toxicity of GM foods is not rigorous and depends on the honesty of the corporations who develop it. Furthermore the yields and the cost benefits of GM crops are not compared with the best conventional crops. According to the Canadian Farmers Union the rate of improvement in yeilds over time have slowed under a GM regime compared with conventional plant breeding. The winners under GM crops are not consumers or farmers but chemical companies.

Leave a Comment

News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.

Send this to a friend