Press reports lay out the situation: "Many farmers are returning to the use of soil insecticides as rootworm resistance to Bt-corn hybrids surfaces more frequently across the Corn Belt," noted
To understand the farmer's present predicament, one has to review scientific advances in agriculture. U.S. corn yields have gone from 72 bushels an acre in 1970 to 153 bushels an acre by 2010.
The use of glyphosate, which
But Mother Nature doesn't stand still. Weeds and bugs began to develop a resistance to the biotech formulas.
Covering 90 percent of U.S. soybean acres with biotech seeds may have taken the focus off plant science, however, he said.
"(Seed companies) simply did not pay much attention to the concerns of scientists on the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds," said Benbrook.
"By 2005 it was clear that the crisis that what some weed scientists had predicted -- if (glyphosate) was relied on too much -- was happening," he said.
- "Unfortunately, other companies would not go along with it.
Genetically modified crops gained acceptance in the market because they work, stated
"It's simply because they're better seeds. Our study shows that in the event that farmers were forced to switch to non-GM crops, and we tried to make foods GMO-free, food prices would increase 15 to 25 percent or more," he said.
Yet Benbrook warns that farmers now find themselves on "a pesticide treadmill."
"(Chemical companies) are making it easy. Look at the ads in farm publications where three or four different herbicides are suggested," he said, referring to pesticide applications now recommended on top of use of biotech seeds.
Those chemicals represent big business on the farm. U.S. farmers spent
Not only are farmers being urged to spray more, other costs are involved, said Benbrook. "The companies are going back to old high-risk chemistry like 2,4-D, dicambra and paraquat -- chemicals that can drift, damaging other crops, and represent human health problems," he said.
The chemical industry is now producing a second generation of herbicide-tolerant crops with herbicides like 2,4-D and dicambra in the seed just as
"It will work for a few years but it won't take long for resistance to occur," he said.
That could mean real trouble for agriculture, said Benbrook. "Five to seven years down the road, none of the major herbicides will work well anymore," he said.
"It keeps the weeds off balance when you really mix it up," he said.
Cover crops, crop rotations and different tillage techniques are among the suggestions that need to be brought into that mix, said Gurian-Sherman.
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