In the United States, the majority of all the corn (86 percent), soybeans (93 percent) and cotton (93 percent) are grown using biotechnology.
In 2010, biotech crop area globally grew ten percent to reach 366 million acres.
In the United States, more than 165 million acres of biotech crops were planted in 2010, up from 158 million acres in 200910. The primary biotech crops grown in the United States are corn, cotton, and soybeans, but also canola, squash, papaya, alfalfa, and sugarbeet.
A record 15.4 million farmers in 29 countries are using agricultural biotechnology. Ninety percent (14.4 million) of these are resource-poor farmers in developing countries11.
7. Do biotech foods cause allergies?
To date, no allergic reactions have been attributed to any food product of biotechnology. Every crop produced through biotechnology is screened in advance for its potential to cause allergic reactions, and none have demonstrated any potential to be allergenic.
In fact, advanced techniques are being used to remove allergens from certain foods. Hypoallergenic rice and soybeans have already been developed, and researchers are at work on wheat. The removal of allergens from foods will open up a broader range of products for those with food allergies to enjoy.
8. Do farmers use more pesticides when they grow biotech crops?
No. In fact, biotech crops have helped reduce pesticide spraying (1996-2008) by 352 million kg (a decrease of 8.4 percent), and as a result, decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted of biotech crops by 16.3 percent12.
In addition, herbicide tolerant biotech crops have led to the adoption of no/reduced tillage production systems. This has reduced soil erosion and improved soil moisture levels.
9. Do biotech crops “contaminate” other crops?
No. The fact is, nature has used pollen to carry genes between plants for hundreds of millions of years. In recent years, some growers (usually of organic crops) have sought to distinguish their produce from conventional agricultural harvests by claiming there are no biotech derived materials present, even though the USDA organic standard allows for substantial material of biotech or conventional origin to be present in organic harvests as long as the organic grower did not knowingly plant biotech derived seed:
“As long as an organic operation has not used excluded methods and takes reasonable steps to avoid contact with the products of excluded methods as detailed in their approved organic system plan, the unintentional presence of the products of excluded methods will not affect the status of the organic operation.”
Not one organically certified farm has lost its USDA certification due to the presence of unintended plant DNA (from either conventional or biotech varieties) since the beginning of the Federal National Organic Program.
10. Can agriculture biotechnology help feed a growing global population?
Yes. Agricultural biotechnology can be a key element in the fight against hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, feeding a world population of 9.1 billion in 2050 will require raising overall food production by 70 percent (nearly 100 percent in developing countries).
To meet this challenge, farmers will need to find ways to grow more food more sustainably.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, along with the Royal Society of London, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the Third World Academy of Sciences issued a report discussing the role of biotechnology in meeting global food needs. It concluded:
“GM technology, coupled with important developments in other areas, should be used to increase the production of main food staples, improve the efficiency of production, reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, and provide access to food for small-scale farmers.”
Biotechnology has already helped increase food and feed production. For example, biotechnology traits have added 74 million tonnes and 79.7 million tonnes respectively to global production of soybeans and corn since its introduction in 1996.
In the United States alone, corn yield has increased 36 percent, soybean yield has increased 12 percent, and cotton yield has increased about 31 percent since 1995, in part due to biotechnology.
High-level government officials and ag policy experts agree on agricultural biotechnology’s contribution to increasing agricultural productivity: