Global environmental watchdog Greenpeace launched a new report Monday warning the European Union against authorising herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered (HTGE) crops, saying they would lead to herbicide-resistant super-weeds.
“When herbicide-tolerant crops are relied on heavily, they trigger the spread and emergence of resistant weeds, which has now happened throughout the United States,” said Oregon-based agricultural economist Charles Benbrook, who was commissioned by Greenpeace to study the issue.
“Then farmers have to spray much more heavily, turning to older, higher-risk herbicides which increases risk to both their cost of production as well as the public health problems associated with herbicide use,” Benbrook told AFP, adding: “We’re solidly in that phase in the US.”
The launch of the report in Warsaw, Poland comes as the 27-member EU considers authorising 26 genetically engineered crops, including 19 that are tolerant to herbicides, Greenpeace said.
Benbrook has predicted EU farmers risk using up to 15 times more glyphosate-type herbicides on HTGE corn, soy and sugar beet crops to stem the growth of super-weeds over a 14-year period (2012-2025), as well as inflated prices for genetically modified seeds, should Brussels allow them.
Greenpeace commissioned Benbrook to complete a study on glyphosate-tolerant crops in the EU based on data on use of the herbicides in the US.
US biotech giant Monsanto brought glyphosate to the market in the 1970s under the Roundup trademark, but it is now off-patent and has become the most commonly used herbicide in the US.