According to the 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use Report released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), use of the herbicide glyphosate, associated with genetically engineered (GE) crops, has dramatically increased over the last several years, while the use of other even more toxic chemicals such as atrazine has not declined.
Contrary to common claims from chemical manufacturers and proponents of GE technology that the proliferation of herbicide tolerant GE crops would result in lower pesticide use rates, the data show that overall use of pesticides has remained relatively steady, while glyphosate use has skyrocketed to more than double the amount used just five years ago.
The 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use Report shows that, in the states surveyed, 57 million pounds of glyphosate were applied last year on corn fields. Ten years prior, in 2000, this number was only 4.4 million pounds, and in 2005, it was still less than half of current numbers at 23 million pounds. Intense corn growing regions have experienced an even greater increase in glyphosate applications. Glyphosate use in the state of Nebraska increased by more than five times in just seven years, going from 1.25 million pounds applied in 2003 to more than seven million pounds last year.
GE proponents have often said that, even if farmers are increasingly reaching for glyphosate, this simply means that they are using less of more toxic weed killers like atrazine. However, the data tell a different story. In 2000, 54 million pounds of atrazine were applied across surveyed states. With glyphosate use increasing by more than five times between 2000 and 2005, atrazine use should have significantly declined over this period. However, the total pounds applied actually increased by more than three million, to 57.4 million total pounds applied across surveyed states in 2005. By 2010, atrazine use had just barely declined, with 51 million pounds still being applied, only slightly less than the 57 million pounds of glyphosate applied. Such widespread use of atrazine is a concern due to the chemical’s links with serious human health effects, including birth defects and disruption of the endocrine and reproductive systems. Additionally, it is a major threat to wildlife as it can harm the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic species.
Read more at Beyond Pesticides
USDA Report: 2010 Corn, Upland Cotton, and Fall Potatoes – released May 25, 2011