Monsanto: News story questioning GMO benefits used 'cherry-picked' data

Monsanto, the multi-national agrochemical and biotechnology company, has delivered a lengthy and strong response to a recent article in the New York Times questioning the yields and other benefits of genetically modified crops (GMOs).
The article compared crop yields in North America and Europe, and concluded there was no ”discernible advantage” to planting GMOs, which are largely banned in western Europe.
In a response posted on the company's website by Nick Weber, a member of the company’s social media team, Monsanto said the Times story chose to “cherry-pick data” and that the arguments “were misinformed.”
“We were disappointed to read this weekend’s piece on GMO crops in the New York Times, titled ‘Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops,’” Weber said.
“The reporter chose to cherry-pick data to argue that GMOs have failed to provide significant benefits, especially yield increases, to farmers in the United States,” Weber said.
The piece said the arguments by the reporter, Danny Hakim, “were misinformed” and “overlooked the perspectives of millions of farmers in the United States, India, South America and elsewhere in the world who have chosen to plant GMOs.”
The story said genetic modification in the U.S. and Canada “has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.”
The Times analysis was based on United Nations data showing that the U.S and Canada have “gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany.”
But Monsanto argued in turn: “Analyzing yield trends across geographies is complex because agronomic characteristics, maturity rates and other factors have to be taken into consideration.”
Monsanto said the report used apples-and-oranges comparisons.
“Making comparisons across very broad geographies – such as the United States and Europe – is especially difficult," Weber said. "Focusing on a comparison between smaller regions allows for better control of those variables and a more accurate comparison.”
Weber cited an analysis by Monsanto’s chief technology officer, Dr. Robb Fraley, which looked at trends between the Canadian province of Ontario and France.
“These two regions are agronomically similar,” Weber said. “The big difference? GMOs are common in Ontario, but not used in France. From 1997 to 2015, corn yields increased in Ontario by 51 percent, while French yields only grew about 10.5 percent."
Weber said GMO benefits can't be disputed.
“It’s easy for anyone to cherry-pick numbers to make a misleading argument, but it’s impossible to argue with the real-world benefits both large and small farmers have seen around the world.”
The New York Times article also said herbicide use has increased in the U.S, and that the country “has fallen behind Europe’s biggest producer, France, in reducing the overall use of pesticides, which includes both herbicides and insecticides.”
Weber, however, cited a recent PG economics study that found GMOs have reduced pesticide spraying by 8.2 percent between 1996 and 2015.
PG also reported that in 2014, conservation tillage enabled by glyphosate-tolerant GMO corn and soybeans removed 22.4 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Weber said.
“That’s the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the road for a year,” Weber said. “That benefit alone should make headlines.”

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