Does the adoption of GM crops lead to more or less pesticide use? This is a frequent topic of debate, but generally one that misses the point. Both sides make the same erroneous assumption that all pesticide use is, by definition, a bad thing. In fact, it depends on the particular pesticide in question, the reason it is being used, and the details of its application. Most modern pesticides are extremely low in hazard to us or to the environment. Both “sides” of the GM debate would do well to stop over-simplfying this issue.
What Biotech Can and Can’t Do
In his recent speech expressing regret for his former role in the anti-GMO campaign, environmentalist Mark Lynas cited cases where biotech crops reduced the need for insecticide applications (e.g. Bt Cotton and Bt Maize). The examples are quite positive from the farmer’s point of view. However, for crops with biotech insect resistance, pesticides remain an important and well regulated tool for farmers who still have to deal with many other pests for which there may never be a biotech solution. The supporters of crop biotechnology need to maintain the perspective that biotech traits are simply one tool in the tool box. There is no excuse for ignoring the science behind advances in pesticide risk management any more than for ignoring the science behind risk management for GM technology.
Jan 22 2013