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Report: new GM crops would cause dramatic increase in EU herbicide use

07 November 2012
by greenpeace -- last modified 07 November 2012

The cultivation of new GM crops in Europe could increase herbicide use by up to 15 times, warned an agricultural forecast commissioned by Greenpeace and presented in Brussels today. Activists took this 'toxic warning' to the doorstep of the European Commission, concluding an eight-city tour of Europe alerting citizens, farming communities and decision-makers of the impending threat.


Twenty seven activists (one for each EU member state) displayed a banner reading "toxic warning" outside the Commission headquarters. The activists, wearing hazmat protective gear, sprayed the banner with mock fumigators to reveal another hidden message: "GM crops = more agrochemicals".

The Commission is considering authorising the cultivation of 26 new GM crops, 19 of which are genetically modified to be tolerant to herbicides – mostly glyphosate, the active ingredient in many herbicides sold throughout the world. Many similar crops are already being grown in North and South America, with devastating environmental and social consequences on rural communities, as documented in Growing Doubt, a new documentary by Greenpeace.

The report, produced by agricultural economist Dr. Charles Benbrook, reveals that the introduction of herbicide tolerant GM crops would lead to substantial increases in the use of glyphosate and other pesticides, sharp increases in seed prices and the spread of corporate domination of food production.

The report predicts increases of over 800% – up to 1500% in the case of GM soy – in the use of glyphosate in the EU over a period of 14 years (2012-2025) for herbicide-tolerant GM maize, soy and sugar beet.

"Europe has a chance to learn from the mistakes made in my country," said Wendel Lutz, a US farmer in Brussels today. "Every time I've described the difficulties I've experienced on my farm, farmers in Europe have sympathised. And when they hear that the same corporate model could be employed here, they are naturally apprehensive about their own futures. We hope the Commission will recognise these concerns and heed the warning we are here to deliver."

"Farmers in the US are already struggling, as they try to spray their way out of the corner they're backed into. The reliance on herbicide-tolerant crops in the US has triggered the emergence and rapid spread of nearly two dozen glyphosate-resistant weeds, driving up farm production costs, as well as the volume and eco-toxicity of herbicides needed to prevent major yield loss," said Dr. Benbrook.

"This study should act as a wake-up call. Given the toxic legacy of herbicide-tolerant GM crops, it would be utterly irresponsible for the European Commission to allow their cultivation on our fields," said Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director.

"Today we bring the voices of US farmers and concerned Europeans to Brussels. The European Commission must decide: are they going to protect the farmers and consumers or are they going to side with the agrochemical industry breathing down our necks?" said Lasse Bruun, Greenpeace International sustainable agriculture campaigner.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.

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