The GLP is committed to full transparency. Download and review our 2019 Annual Report

Have GMO crops cut herbicide use? A tale of two conflicting studies

| | December 7, 2018
field flag meaning technology W A e
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

We have planted millions of acres of genetically-engineered (GE) crops, a vast majority of which are resistant to herbicides. In the U.S., we’ve collected lots of herbicide sales and usage data …. So we should be able to simply look at the herbicide data before and after GE crops were developed, and infer an answer. Right?

[Editor’s note: Read Dr. Andrew Kniss’ original blog post here.]

A few years ago, Charles Benbrook did just that and published his results in a paper that summarized pesticide data between 1996-2011 …. However, Graham Brookes looked at similar data spanning almost the exact same time period and also published his results in a paper.

How [could] two scientists could look at almost the same data, but come to such drastically different conclusions? How could the same simple question lead one person to conclude that herbicide use increased by 239 million kg, while another person concludes that herbicide use was reduced by 225 million kg?

Related article:  Landrigan and Benbrook get it wrong on GMOs in New England Journal of Medicine

I don’t think it is possible to say for sure what the impact of GE crops has been. My personal opinion …. is that we’ve probably seen a net benefit with respect to both toxicity and the evolution of ‘superweeds.’ And one could even make an argument that adoption of GE crops has slowed the increase in herbicide use. But …. getting an answer to this question is anything but simple.

Read full, original article: Have genetically engineered herbicide-resistant crops increased or decreased herbicide use?

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

Send this to a friend