New study finds GM Soya means more pesticide in the environment

Greenpeace warns Philippine government against pending Monsanto field trials

Press release - May 4, 2001
One of the fundamental claims of the Genetic Engineering (GE) industry that their soya crops need less herbicides than conventional varieties has been seriously challenged by a new independent report, according to environmental group Greenpeace today.

One of the fundamental claims of the Genetic Engineering (GE) industry that their soya crops need less herbicides than conventional varieties has been seriously challenged by a new independent report, according to environmental group Greenpeace today.

Previously unreleased data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) prove that on average 11.4% more herbicides are used on Monsanto's Roundup Ready (RR) soya, than on conventional soya. In many cases the increase was up to 30%.[i]

In addition, the report by Dr. Charles Benbrook, from the US Northwest Science and Environmental Policy Center, accuses Monsanto of manipulating comparative data on herbicide use on its Roundup Ready soya and conventional soybeans "in ways that fall between misleading and dishonest". Monsanto has based its claims of herbicide-reduction on a comparison between "traditional soybean varieties" and RR crops without explaining that these traditional varieties were a selected number of "old generation" types, which require high-dose rate herbicides.

"This case clearly demonstrates why the public should not trust Monsanto and its usual cabal of biotech pushers. It also shows that Monsanto would not hesitate to use half-truths in their efforts to promote their products. Far from improving the state of the environment as the GE industry claims, this study confirms that genetic engineering of farm crops means more chemicals in our environment," said Von Hernandez, Campaign Director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The report also warns that various weeds are developing increased resistance to Roundup. As a consequence, the farmers have to use additional herbicides to boost the insufficient effect. Dr Benbrook estimates that the widespread cultivation of the GE soybeans can lead farmers to spray an additiona120 million pounds of herbicides this coming season. The report also states that university research trials suggest that Monsanto's GE soya yields 5-10% less than similar conventional soya varieties.

Monsanto has a pending application with the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines to conduct field trials of genetically engineered corn (Bt corn) in thirty-two sites allover the country.[ii] Environmental groups warn that approval of the multi-locational field trials could result in massive and irreversible genetic contamination of conventional crops and products, diminishing the freedom of choice for farmers and consumers to select non-GE products.

"The likes of Monsanto's GE Roundup Ready soya have caused stagnation in the development of real environmentally sound agricultural practices and forced farmers to still rely on herbicide dependent systems. The Philippine government should take note of this important lesson before allowing genetic polluters like Monsanto to further experiment with our ecosystems and our food supply," Hernandez added.

The USDA data is published in the report by Dr. Charles Benbrook, the Northwest Science and Environmental Policy Center entitled "Troubled Times Amid Commercial Success for Roundup Ready Soybeans", available on http://www.biotech-info.net/troubledtimes.html

Notes: [i] In 1998 in 16 soybean growing states in the US, an average total amount of 1.22 pounds of herbicides per acre was applied on GE Roundup Ready soybeans, whereas on an average 1.08 pounds of herbicide was applied on conventional soya varieties, which is 11.4 percent less than on RR soya. In six states, including Iowa where about one-sixth of the nation's soybeans are grown, total herbicide use on Roundup Ready soybeans was at least 30 percent greater on average compared to conventional varieties. Use on RR soybeans was modestly lower in five states. [ii] Monsanto-Philippines has filed an application with the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines entitled: Multi-location Field Bioefficacy Verification Trial of Transgenic C- 818 and C-838 Yieldguard Corn Against Asiatic Corn Borer, Ostrinia Furnacalis, Guenee, in the Philippines. This application involves 32 sites in twenty-nine barangays located in six provinces in Luzon and Mindanao. The said field trials will be conducted in open fields involving areas of more than 1,000 square meters each site.