Friday, August 23, 2002

The USDA Economic Research Service has some (sort of) hard numbers on GE crops and pesticide use:
ERS analysis, using an econometric model that statistically controls for other factors affecting pesticide use, shows an overall reduction in pesticide use (including insecticides and herbicides) associated with the increased adoption of GE crops (Bt cotton, and herbicide-tolerant corn, cotton, and soybeans; Bt corn data were not available). The decline in total pesticide use between 1997 and 1998 on U.S. corn, soybeans, and cotton was estimated to be 19.1 million acre-treatments, or 6.2 percent of total treatments. Total active ingredients applied to corn, soybean, and cotton fields also declined by about 2.5 million pounds, resulting in a significant reduction in potential exposure to pesticides.

The amount of herbicide active ingredient applied to soybeans increased slightly because the additional amount of glyphosate applied to HT soybeans exceeded the reduction in other types of soybean herbicides. However, glyphosate has a lower toxicity to mammals, birds, and fish; binds to the soil rapidly, preventing leaching; and is easily biodegraded by soil bacteria. Glyphosate is only a third as toxic to humans and is likely to persist in the environment for only half as long as the herbicides it displaces.

[HT=herbicide tolerant, i.e., RoundupReady; glyphosate=Roundup]

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