‘In the Weeds’: Answering the question—Do biotech crops increase pesticide use?

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

At CSPI, we set out to answer the question of whether GE crops increase the use of pesticides, and dove into the weeds of the available data [in] our new report, “In the Weeds: Understanding the Impact of GE Crops on Pesticide Use.

To read the full CSPI report, click here.

Here are our topline findings: 

  • GE insect-resistant crops have been associated with a significant reduction in insecticide sprays across all crops engineered with traits for insect resistance…
  • Since glyphosate-tolerant crops became widely adopted in the early 1990s, use of glyphosate and overall herbicides has increased in corn, soybean, and cotton (as well as in non-GE crops like wheat and barley). 
  • However, trends in herbicide use are better measured by changes in toxicity (volume X toxicity) rather than by volume alone, as adoption of herbicide-tolerant crops has changed the mix of herbicides used. 
  • Acute (or short-term) toxicity of overall herbicide use after the introduction of GE crops decreased for all three major crops (corn, soybean, and cotton) and chronic (or long-term) toxicity of herbicides decreased by 78% in soybean, but increased by 7% in corn and by 91% in cotton. 
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Our report calls for caution in pesticide use going forward, noting recent trends that may threaten progress made with the adoption of GE crops.


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