US farmers warn EU: do not follow GE path to agricultural Armageddon

Press release - 22 October, 2012
Warsaw, 22 October 2012 – European agriculture will be irreparably damaged if the European Commission were to follow the US and authorise the cultivation of herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered (HTGE) crops, Greenpeace warned today. The warning comes from the first ever forecast of how Europe would be impacted by the increased herbicide usage linked to HTGE crops, even as the European Commission considers authorising cultivation of 19 HTGE crops by early 2013. (1)

Greenpeace commissioned renowned agricultural economist Dr. Charles Benbrook (2) to produce the report “Glyphosate tolerant crops in the EU”, which uses data based on the US’ experience of HTGE crops.  The report predicts changes – up to 15-fold in some cases – in the use of glyphosate  over a period of 14 years (2012-2025) for HTGE corn, soy and sugar beet in the EU.

"Farmers in the US are already struggling, as they try to spray their way out of the corner they’re backed into. The reliance on herbicide-tolerant crops in the US has triggered the emergence and rapid spread of nearly two dozen glyphosate-resistant weeds, driving up farm production costs, as well as the volume and ecotoxicity of herbicides needed to prevent major yield loss," according to Dr. Benbrook.

This sentiment is echoed in ‘Growing Doubt’ a Greenpeace documentary filmed in Argentina and the US, where farming communities talk about how herbicide tolerant crop monocultures have affected their economy, environment and society. Wendel Lutz and Wes Shoemyer, two American farmers featured in the film, have also travelled to Europe to warn farmers against a fate similar to their own.

“So far, the EU has stood very firm. It still has a chance to retain its independence, to retain its integrity,” said Wes Shoemyer. “It needs to stand up for farmers now while it has the opportunity; it needs to think about the consequences that will follow. It can be assured that once it allows corporate domination, companies like Monsanto will charge basically what the market will bear.”

Dr. Benbrook’s forecast paints an especially grim picture for Europe: If EU farmers take up HTGE technology as quickly as in the US, glyphosate use in maize crops - the most important and widely grown crop in Europe – will increase by over 1,000% by 2025 over current use, and total herbicide use will double.

The report launch in Warsaw marks the beginning of an 18 day tour Greenpeace is leading around Europe, inviting farmers groups, local communities and national politicians at each stop to discuss their growing concerns about these threats.

 “We’ve already seen what happened to the farming community in Argentina and the US, and Dr. Benbrook’s report paints a vivid picture of what will happen here should these crops be authorised. Surely the European Commission will heed these warnings, reject applications for growing HTGE crops in Europe and substantially strengthen the risk assessment procedure for GE crops,” said Lasse Bruun, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner at Greenpeace International.

For further information contact:

Lasse Bruun, Senior Campaigner - Sustainable Agriculture & Genetic Engineering, Greenpeace International, Mobile:  +31 65 381 9121, E-mail: 

NOTES:
   
1. Currently 26 genetically engineered crops are being considered for approval in the European Union. 19 out of these 26 are genetically engineered to be tolerant to herbicides.

2. Dr. Charles Benbrook is a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, and recently published the first ever peer-reviewed, published estimate of the impacts of genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant (HT) crops on pesticide use, based on an exhaustive analysis of publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service.

3. A summary of the report can be downloaded: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/briefings/agriculture/2012/HTGE/Benbrook-Report-Summary.pdf
For the full report:  www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/agriculture/2012/GI_Herb_Use_FINAL_10-18-12.pdf

4. Assumes that HTGE crops are approved but with enforced regulatory limitations such as a prohibition against planting RoundupReady (RR) crops two years in a row on any given field.

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