Tag Archives: CBAN

Call to Re-think Genetically Engineered Herbicide-Tolerant Crops

CBAN – Aug 22, 2019 – Lucy Sharratt

Proposed Monsanto corn tolerates four herbicides

Ottawa, August 22, 2019. Canadian civil society groups the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) and Prevent Cancer Now (PCN) are calling for a review of the use of genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) herbicide-tolerant crops in Canada, in response to Monsanto’s request for government approval of a GM corn that can withstand applications of four herbicides, including 2,4-D and dicamba.(1)

“This proposed GM corn demonstrates the breakdown of herbicide-tolerant crops,” said Lucy Sharratt of CBAN. “GM glyphosate-tolerant crops are no longer working due to the spread of glyphosate resistant weeds so companies are replacing them with GM crop plants that are tolerant to other herbicides. This is a short-term fix that will likely recreate the problem and further increase herbicide use. A government review of the impacts of using herbicide-tolerant crops is needed.”

Over twenty years, herbicide-tolerant cropping systems have not reduced herbicide use in Canada as promised. Instead, herbicide sales have gone up and the use of herbicides has led to the development and spread of more herbicide resistant weeds, particularly glyphosate resistant weeds, which are in turn leading to the use of yet more herbicides.

Monsanto’s new proposed corn MON 87429 (now owned by Bayer) is the first GM crop plant to be tolerant to both 2,4-D and dicamba. Most herbicide tolerant crop plants on the market are now tolerant to more than one herbicide. MON 87429 is genetically engineered to tolerate four herbicides: dicamba, 2,4-D, quizalofop, and glufosinate.

“In the escalating weed wars, as herbicide use is increasing the industry is returning to hazardous chlorinated chemicals such as 2,4-D, dicamba and quizalofop,” said Meg Sears, Chair of PCN. “Returning to multiple older herbicide formulations can put farmers and consumers at risk.”

In comments to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CBAN and PCN call for comprehensive review of the environmental, health and economic impacts of using herbicide-tolerant crops in Canada.

“We need to evaluate the impacts of the whole system, not just assess individual products one by one,” said Sharratt.

Herbicide tolerant crops are designed to survive sprayings of particular pesticide formulations. Approvals of genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops since 1995 have led to a predominance of herbicide-tolerant cropping systems in corn, canola, soy and sugarbeet production in Canada. These systems are reliant on patented GM seeds and the accompanying brand-name herbicide formulations. Almost 100% of all the GM crops grown in Canada are genetically engineered to be herbicide-tolerant.

“A national pesticide-reduction strategy is urgently needed, to support biodiverse, resilient ecosystems and help transition to sustainable agriculture in the face of climate change,” said Sears.

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Genetic Engineering Will Not “Feed the World” CBAN

Many supporters of genetic engineering (also called genetic modifications or GM) argue that GM crops are needed to stop global hunger. They say the technology will increase crop yields and allow us to produce enough food to feed the world’s growing population.

But the world already produces enough food to feed 10 billion people, which is the number our population is predicted to reach by 2050. And where there is hunger, it is mainly a result of poverty and inequality, not insufficient food production.

The reality is that people go hungry today because they lack the money to buy food or because they do not have access to the land, water and the other resources they need to grow food themselves.GM crops do not address these causes of hunger and, so far, they are not increasing global food production.

GM CROPS DO NOT INCREASE GLOBAL FOOD PRODUCTION

The evidence to date shows that genetic engineering has not contributed to an increase in crop yields. Overall, conventionally bred non-GM varieties remain more effective and are less costly to develop. It is these seeds – not the GM traits added to them – that account for yield increases seen in crops like soy and corn. This explains why yields for corn and canola in Western Europe, where GM varieties are not grown, have increased at a similar rate to, or higher rate than North America where production is dominated by GM varieties.

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Background: Genetically Modified Wheat Contamination in Canada and the US

There are no genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) wheat varieties approved anywhere in the world. None have ever been commercially grown and sold. However, field trials of different GM wheat varieties continue in Canada and the US, at undisclosed locations.

Contamination from Monsanto’s GM herbicide-tolerant wheat

 

Monsanto’s GM trait for glyphosate-tolerance was found in wheat plants growing on a road in southern Alberta in 2017, in a contamination incident reported by Canadian regulators on June 14, 2018.[i]

There have been three GM wheat contamination incidents reported in the US (2013, 2014, 2016), all with Monsanto’s GM herbicide-tolerant (glyphosate-tolerant) “Roundup Ready” wheat.

In 2004, Monsanto withdrew its request for approval of its GM “Roundup Ready” wheat in Canada and the US after protests from farmers and consumers along with resistance in the international market.

The last time Monsanto grew trials of its GM wheat in Canada was in 2004 (2005 in the US).[ii]

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