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Trends in pesticide use on soybean, corn and cotton since the introduction of major genetically modified crops in the United States

May 1, 2016

BACKGROUND

Genetically modified (GM) varieties of soybean, corn and cotton have largely replaced conventional varieties in the United States. The most widely used applications of GM technology have been the development of crops that are resistant to a specific broad-spectrum herbicide (primarily glyphosate) or that produce insecticidal compounds within the plant itself. With the widespread adoption of GM crops, a decline in the use of conventional pesticides was expected.

RESULTS

There has been a reduction in the annual herbicide application rate to corn since the advent of GM crops, but the herbicide application rate is mostly unchanged for cotton. Herbicide use on soybean has increased. There has been a substantial reduction in the amount of insecticides used on both corn and cotton since the introduction of GM crops.

CONCLUSIONS

The observed changes in pesticide use are likely to be the result of many factors, including the introduction of GM crops, regulatory restrictions on some conventional pesticides, introduction of new pesticide technologies and changes in farming practices. In order to help protect human and environmental health and to help agriculture plan for the future, more detailed and complete documentation on pesticide use is needed on a frequent and ongoing basis.

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