Daily News Archive
From December 13, 2006                                                                                                        

DuPont Cuts Pesticide Production To Focus on GM Corn
(Beyond Pesticides, December 13, 2006) DuPont recently announced plans to reduce pesticide and herbicide production in an effort to keep its seed division, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., in control of the American biotech corn industry. As the Monsanto Company’s share of the American seed industry increases, DuPont is trying to maintain control with increased resources and new genetically modified seeds in development. Both companies are vying for a growing biotech corn industry as the demand for ethanol increases.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) technology includes a variety of grains that are engineered to be resistant to certain herbicides, allowing for theoretically less labor-intensive agriculture and an ability to rely less on crop rotation. However, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans, used heavily in Argentina and other areas, have already caused some controversy over the alternative farming practices they necessitate. For example, several species of unwanted plants are becoming resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup (Daily News, September 27, 2006). Even more concerning are studies from the region that are revealing health problems, including clusters of leukemia, liver cancer, and numerous cases of hypospadias and cryptorchidism (Daily News, November 28, 2006). Pioneer will release their own brand of herbicide-resistant soybeans within the next three years as more farmers cross over to GMOs.

New technology includes “triple-stack” seeds, which include more than one engineered trait (like herbicide and pest resistance). Monsanto’s hybrids are toxic to two types of pests and immune to Roundup, which are purported to improve yields. Monsanto estimates that planting of triple-stack hybrids will increase from 6 million acres in 2006 to 10 million next year.

Likewise, Pioneer expects 10 percent of their corn seed sales in 2007 to consist of triple-stack hybrids, a tenfold increase from 2006. Among Pioneer’s new biotechnology are soybean and corn seeds, to be released in 2009 and 2010, respectively. These seeds, named Optimum GAT, are intended to be tolerant of multiple herbicides that would otherwise kill them.

So while pesticide production will be cut at DuPont to support genetically engineered crops, there is no sign of plans to reduce agriculture’s dependence on chemical pest management. Beyond Pesticides maintains that GMOs should be closely regulated and well-labeled for consumers, and their long-term effects, as well as the effects of the associated agricultural practices, more thoroughly researched. For a list of ten reasons why you should say no to genetic engineering, click here. For past Beyond Pesticides news stories on GMOs, click here.