2-Plants: GE crops create false hope says WWF Canada
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----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------
TITLE: Genetic engineering does not yield pesticide reduction
SOURCE: WWF Canada, press release
DATE: March 7, 2000
-------------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------
Genetic engineering does not yield pesticide reduction
TORONTO - Genetically-engineered (GE) crops cannot be depended on to
reduce pesticide use, according to a report released today by World
Wildlife Fund Canada titled "Do Genetically Engineered Crops Reduce
Pesticide Use? The Evidence Says Not Likely." Working to reduce
reliance on pesticides in Canada, WWF is concerned that false hopes
about biotechnology's ability to reduce pesticide use will impede
progress towards sustainable agriculture.
"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to the dysfunctional and outdated Pest Control Products Act and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
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
- 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
- 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.
For more information: Julia Langer, Director of Wildlife Toxicology,
WWF Canada, at (416)-489-4567 ext. 258 or Greg Hamara, Media Manager,
WWF Canada, at (416)-489-4567 ext. 276.
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-
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