Farmers of genetically engineered crops are dramatically increasing their use of herbicides. That’s according to a new study out of Washington State University. Researchers say farmers are spraying more in response to the rise of so-called “superweeds.”
The new study analyzes 16 years of federal data on the nation’s corn, soybean and cotton fields. It finds growers with crops engineered to be herbicide resistant are now putting millions more pounds of weed killer on their fields than farmers who grow the non-modified variety.
The findings were published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe. Study author and WSU researcher Charles Benbrook attributes the increase to weeds becoming resistant to the chemicals meant to target them.
Benbrook: “This is what has people so worried, because there could be sort of a herbicide treadmill that can really get out of control and begins to be a public health problem … and it imposes on farmers a huge additional cost.”
Benbrook, who lives in the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon, says Northwest farmers should take heed. He says the same cycle can develop in genetically engineered sugar beet and alfalfa crops if growers become too dependent on specialized weed killers like Roundup.
Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network
On the Web:
Study: “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years,” by Charles Benbrook
Summary of Major Findings: