Thursday, December 3, 2009


One of the avowed objectives of evolving new crop varieties through biotechnology intervention is to reduce use of chemicals for crop protection. Thanks to the innovative efforts of biotechnologist many GM crops have been able to thrive without use of chemical insecticides. Unfortunately reduction in the use of pesticides was more than offset by increased use of herbicides in the cultivation of GM crops. The statistics of chemical application so meticulously compiled in the US can give a clue as to the flip side of GM technology. ,

"The groups said research showed that herbicide use grew by 383 million pounds from 1996 to 2008, with 46 percent of the total increase occurring in 2007 and 2008. The report was released by nonprofits The Organic Center (TOC), the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS). The groups said that while herbicide use has climbed, insecticide use has dropped because of biotech crops. They said adoption of genetically engineered corn and cotton that carry traits resistant to insects has led to a reduction in insecticide use by 64 million pounds since 1996.Still, that leaves a net overall increase on U.S. farm fields of 318 million pounds of pesticides, which includes insecticides and herbicides, over the first 13 years of commercial use".

The findings reinforce the feeling that when it comes to changing agricultural practices, a holistic approach can only provide the right answer whether such changes have a better risk-benefit ratio in the long run. Some of the herbicides are more dangerous than the traditional pesticides and what long term risks these new chemicals, present as residues in the crops, pose for the health of the farmers and the consumers is yet to be ascertained.


No comments: