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New report from WWF-Canada critiques GE claims of pesticide reduction
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, MARCH 7, 2000
"Genetic engineering is not a magical short cut to pesticide reduction," said Julia Langer, Director of WWF's Wildlife Toxicology Program. "The path to pesticide reduction will be paved with reforms to the dysfunctional and outdated Pest Control Products Act and through strong support for farmers to implement ecological practices."
Biotechnology companies have focused on the genetic engineering of major crops such as corn, soybeans, potatoes, cotton and canola, all of which are heavily sprayed. Most of the GE crops on the market have genes from bacteria inserted into them (transgenic engineering) which give crops one of two kinds of new characteristics: either resistance to herbicides so that the crop can be sprayed with an herbicide without being killed, or the ability to produce toxins of a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which will kill some insect pests. Since pesticides can harm birds, fish, other wildlife, and natural enemies of pests, and are also associated with harm to people's health, it would be beneficial if GE crops resulted in reduced pesticide use.
However, recent US data show that GE crops are not producing such reductions. Farmers planting GE crops have often actually increased their use of herbicides and insecticides. The WWF report outlines six key reasons underlying why genetic engineering does not decrease pesticide reliance:
· Herbicide-resistant GE crops often increase the use of the herbicide for which the crop is resistant and, because uncommon weeds emerged with the planting of the GE crops, do not necessarily reduce the use of other herbicides.
· Transfer of inserted foreign genes from GE crops to related plants will increase weediness, requiring additional sprays to control them. This is especially an issue where weeds are closely related to the engineered crop, such as canola.
· Bt crops do not necessarily result in reduced spraying of insecticides to control target pests. In fact, more acres of conventional corn are being treated with insecticides than before GE corn introduction.
· GE crops will increase resistance of pests to both pesticides and the GE crop itself. This was predicted during the regulatory review of GE technologies.
· GE food crops have negative impacts on beneficial insects such as lacewings and ladybugs, which would otherwise help farmers to control pests.
· GE crops reinforce poor crop rotation practices which are the real key to sustainable pest management.
In one analysis, the greater expense of GE seeds and the increased herbicide costs resulted in a 50 per cent increase in farmers' weed management costs.
Since GE is not performing according to claims and significant risks continue to emerge, including concerns regarding the impact of Bt corn on monarch butterflies, WWF concludes that sure-fire ways of achieving pesticide reduction, including IPM and organic techniques, should be preferentially adopted.
WWF's report Do Genetically Engineered Crops Reduce Pesticide Use? The Evidence Says Not Likely is available in the pressroom of WWF Canada's web site at http://www.wwf.ca or by calling WWF at 1-800-26-PANDA.
[Source: posting to the Biotech_Activists list]
link to this item http://www.ecoglobe.org.nz/news2000/news2000.htm#pest0730">