Overwhelming Evidence Supports Phase Out of Herbicide-Tolerant GM Crops

TWN Info Service on Biosafety
6 October 2022
Third World Network

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Overwhelming Evidence Supports Phase Out of Herbicide-Tolerant GM Crops

Herbicide-tolerant (HT) GM crops, which include an herbicide-tolerant trait alone or in combination with other traits, account for around 88% of the land area planted with GM crops worldwide. HT crops account for virtually all the GM crops grown for use in food or feed. Since 1996, most herbicide-tolerant GM crops have been Roundup Ready (RR) crops, which are genetically engineered to be tolerant to glyphosate, but this has recently been changing with increasing areas planted with new HT crops which are tolerant to additional herbicides, such as dicamba and 2,4-D.

A new report, Time for the End of GM/GE Herbicide Tolerant Crops?, published by GeneWatch UK, looks at the economic, environmental and social impacts of growing RR crops and newer HT crops. This report reviews more than 25 years of experience with this technology. It concludes that the cultivation of GM HT crops may be regarded as a temporary aberration, rather than the revolution originally proclaimed by the proponents of these crops.

The report answers important questions like “Do farmers and society benefit from RR crops?” and what the environmental and health impacts of the herbicides used are. It cites evidence to show, for instance, that there are no RR crops available today that increase the yield potential of a hybrid variety. Impacts of RR crop cultivation on smallholders include land conflicts and the intensification of agro-industrial practices, including greater use of herbicides, increased farm sizes, land use changes and deforestation, seed price hikes, and the expansion of monocultures and indebtedness. The widespread adoption of RR crops in North and South America has contributed significantly to an increased environmental presence of glyphosate-based herbicides and their primary break-down product, AMPA, in rain, streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, wetlands, soil water, ground water, plants, soil, dust and sediment leading to adverse environmental and health impacts.

The industry’s answer to the development of GR weeds is mainly herbicide-centric and includes a) developing HT crops with enhanced tolerance to glyphosate, b) increasing the herbicide platform used on RR crops to include additional herbicides; and c) developing new HT crops with tolerance to additional herbicides.

The growing failure of RR crops, due to the spread of glyphosate resistant weeds, provides an opportunity to phase out RR crops. The priority should be to reduce and replace the use of herbicides: not to replace RR crops with other herbicide-tolerant crops, whether or not these are GM crops or produced by different methods. The report calls on governments of countries where RR crops are grown to urgently develop phase-out plans and publish these for public consultation and debate. It is particularly important that RR crops are not pushed into new countries which have so far avoided stepping onto the “transgenic treadmill”, in which farmers are locked in to paying for ever more expensive seeds and herbicides.

The full report and its Executive Summary are available here:


Full report (low resolution version):


With best wishes,
Third World Network

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