During late October, The New York Times published a front page news story essentially saying that genetically modified crops (GMOs) don’t increase crop yields and don’t reduce pesticide use. However, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones had a look at the Grey Lady’s piece after Nathaniel Johnson at Grist highlighted the news piece as having glaring errors and agreed with Johnson The New York Times story was nothing short of deceptive.
For example, as Johnson points out, The New York Times states that the use of GMO seeds has expanded and insecticide use has gone down, but overall herbicide use has increased. This as opposed to France where The Times states GMO seed usage is down but so is herbicide use. However, using data and quoting from University of Wyoming scientist Dr. Andrew Kniss, Drum responds to The Times‘ point:
It is true that France has been reducing pesticide use, but France still uses more pesticides per arable hectare than we do in the USA. In the case of fungicide & insecticides, a LOT more. But a relatively tiny proportion of these differences are likely due to GMOs; pesticide use depends on climate, pest species, crop species, economics, availability, tillage practices, crop rotations, and countless other factors….Given all of these confounding factors, I wonder why France was singled out by Mr. Hakim as the only comparison to compare pesticide use trends. Pesticide use across Europe varies quite a bit, and trends in most EU countries are increasing, France is the exception in this respect, not the rule. In the early 1990’s, France was using more herbicides compared to almost every other country, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that pesticide use decreased as formation of the EU began to standardize pesticide regulations after 1993.
As a result of France’s not using GMOs, their overall fungicide and insecticide use is much higher than the US even though their insecticide use is at or below US levels. France compensated by using alternate means to kill off insects and other critters that would eat their crops. In this case, the effect is still basically the same: non-use of GMO’s means higher levels of insecticide use. However, in the case of The New York Times, as Drum points out their report focused more on the raw volume instead of the percentage.
Post-election there has been a lot of claims made by the mainstream media about fake news stories influencing the outcome of the November 8th election and helping to elect Donald Trump President of the United States. However, it is more like the only fake news was coming from outlets, like The New York Times, and false reporting on subjects like this GMO story. The Times‘ GMO report also helps environmentalists in their quest to outlaw GMO’s since by doing so, banning them makes it harder for people to live since our food supply is cut drastically short. If The Times‘ report was not publicly taken to task and not widely debunked, the Grey Lady would have contributed to even more deaths resulting from GMO bans.