GMOs and skyrocketing pesticide use?

GMO…Genetically Modified Organisms. It’s a hot topic right now and there are some VERY passionate people out there when it comes to discussing GMO crops and pesticide use. GMO crops were introduced about 17 years ago, and it seems rather than farmers using less herbicide and pesticide (as planned), they may now be using more! 

How did we get here? 

Monsanto Corporation, the maker of the weed-killer Roundup, introduced the first genetically modified crop in 1996…soybeans. These soybeans could tolerate high amounts of glyphosate, the chief ingredient in Roundup. I’m sure these crops were a hit with farmers who could easily kill weed populations without damaging their crops. The concern is, in recent years more than two dozen weed species have become resistant to glyphosate, causing farmers to use increasing amounts of both glyphosate and other weed killing chemicals to try to control the so-called "superweeds." In essence, the effects seem to have backfired because now these “superweeds” require more chemicals to keep them at bay.

Other “Roundup-ready” crops by Monsanto include genetically modified soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets—they all possess artificial genes that make them resistant to glyphosate.

The research findings on pesticide use are alarming!

Glyphosate use on genetically engineered corn, cotton, and soybeans increased from 15 million pounds in 1996 to 159 million pounds in 2012!

A new study released in July 2013 by Food & Water Watch finds the goal of reduced chemical use has not panned out as planned. Food & Water Watch examined U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data to document the increased use of herbicides that has accompanied the adoption of herbicide-tolerant, genetically engineered crops (1).

One of Food & Water Watch’s many findings include, “The total volume of glyphosate applied to the three biggest genetically engineered crops—corn, cotton, and soybeans—increased 10-fold from 15 million pounds in 1996 to 159 million pounds in 2012."

The study also looked at the growing problem of glyphosate-resistant “superweeds,” which have now spread to 12 different states as of 2012 (1).

This report follows on the heels of another study published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe has really sparked some controversy. The researcher, Dr. Charles Benbrook, looked at the rate of pesticide use over the years since introducing genetically engineered seeds, or GMO’s (2). 

Similar to the Food & Water Watch’s study, Benbrook describes how pesticide use on conventional crops has risen by 404 million pounds and herbicide use has increased by more than 527 million pounds since 1996 when GMOs were first introduced (2).

As the effectiveness of glyphosate (aka: Round-up) weakens, what’s next?

Let me tell you what's next: 2,4-D and Dicamba and Glufosinate and Isoxaflutole, just to name a few! Sound appetizing?! Farmers will have to turn to these more potent weed-killing chemicals because the genetically engineered seeds they're using are becoming resistant to Round-up spray.

How do these chemicals effect our health?

Not good. In fact, some pesticides are proven to be especially hazardous to children. These four are next in line for use on our food:

2,4-D: Associated with endocrine disruption (3).

Dicamba: A carcinogenic herbicide (4).

Isoxaflutole: Exposure causes developmental toxicity and is a probable human carcinogen, leading to liver tumors and carcinomas in male and female rats (5).

Atrazine: The EPA warns consumers that acute exposure can cause organ failure, low blood pressure and damage to adrenal glands, while long-term exposure can damage the cardiovascular system and cause cancer (6).

What can you do?

As you can probably tell, increasing pesticide use does not bode well for humans, animals, or our living earth. 

Join us in supporting the Non-GMO movement. To learn more about GMO’s, visit the Non-GMO Project at

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods


1.  Go here to view a PDF document containing Benbrook's complete study.

2.  Go here to view a PDF document of the Food & Water Watch study.

3.  Mnif, Wissem et al.  "Efect of Endocrine Disruptor Pesticides:  A Review."  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 8. June 17, 2011 at 2268, 2290 to 2291.

4.  Cox, Caroline. “Dicamba Factsheet.” Journal of Pesticide Reform, vol. 14, no. 1. 1994 at 30 to 35.

5.  Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (2002) at 17 to 20; EPA. "Pesticide Fact Sheet, Name of Chemical:  Isoxaflutole."  September 15, 1998 at 2, 5 to 6. 

6.  EPA.  "Consumer Factsheet on:  Atrazine."  


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