Last year 170 million hectares were planted with GM crops, almost all with one of two traits: herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. Paterson says farmers wouldn’t grow it, governments wouldn’t license it, and consumers wouldn’t buy it if it were not cost-effective and beneficial. But the facts tell a different story.
Farmers who took on herbicide-tolerant GM crops are now struggling with the cost of combating herbicide-resistant “superweeds“. Some 49% of US farms suffer from Roundup-resistant superweeds, a 50% increase on the year before. As a result, since 1996 there has been a disproportionate increase in the use of weedkillers – in excess of 225m kg in the US. Meanwhile, farmers who took on pest-resistant GM crops are struggling with the cost of secondary pests unaffected by the built-in toxins. In China and India, initial savings from reduced insecticide use with Bt cotton have been eroded as secondary pests emerged.
Nor has GM boosted yields as promised. Indeed, in Europe, where only small amounts of GM maize are grown, yield growth of traditionally bred varieties is much faster than that of the GM-dominated midwest of the US: average yields in western Europe are now higher….