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For the record

"GM crops have increased the use of danger pesticides" Image

"GM crops have increased the use of danger pesticides"

On 3rd October 2012 an article in the Daily Mail said that GM crops have caused ‘superweeds and toxin-resistant insects to emerge’. It states that as a consequence this has ‘increased the use of danger pesticides’ as the ‘weeds have developed an immunity to the chemical (Roundup)’. Here Dr Jonathan Jones, plant scientist, puts the claims in context.

Jonathan Jones, Senior Scientist, the Sainsbury Laboratory:

“By using the catchall phrase "pesticides", the article fails to properly distinguish between herbicides (which kill plants) and insecticides (which kill insects). The use of genetically modified Bt cotton and maize has led to dramatic reductions in insecticides (usually nerve toxins) worldwide. And while there has certainly been more glyphosate use, this is no surprise; the use of persistent herbicides such as imazethapyr (which are more damaging to the environment), has dramatically declined, as they have been replaced by glyphosate.

To grow crops we need to control weeds. Roundup is an excellent weedkiller; it is rapidly inactivated in soil and results in minimal damage to mammals. GM crops with resistance to glyphosate, the herbicidal agent in Roundup, have been engineered.  Inevitably, extensive use has selected for Roundup resistant weeds. The solution is careful use and a wider spectrum of herbicides. This is similar to the need for careful use and a wide spectrum of antibiotics to treat disease because extensive medical use has promoted antibiotic resistant bacteria.”

Document type: For The Record

Published: 4 October 2012

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