WASHINGTON, D.C. (Tuesday, April 14, 2009) - Crops improved through biotechnology are being adopted by farmers around the world because of the benefits this science delivers. Biotech traits, such as insect and herbicide tolerance, help to increase yields by protecting plants that would otherwise be lost due to insects or weeds. Many experts agree that agricultural biotechnology has an important role to play in helping to feed and fuel a growing world.
A report titled “Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops,” released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) questions biotechnology’s ability to increase crop yields. Despite impressive increases in crop production statistics since the introduction of agricultural biotechnology in 1996, UCS claims these successes are not due to genetic engineering.
Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, Executive Vice President, Food and Agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued the following statement in response to the report:
“Biotech crops help to provide for more sustainable agricultural production. The benefits include a reduction in the environmental impacts of agriculture, increased production on the same amount of acreage, improved food quality, and increased farmer incomes.
“It’s absurd to deny biotechnology’s contribution, among other factors, to increased crop production. Since the introduction of agricultural biotechnology in 1996, we have seen double-digit growth in corn and soybean yields.
Specifically, according to the USDA Annual Summary Crop Production Report, 2009:
- In the United States, where today 80 percent of the nation's corn acreage is planted with biotechnology varieties, yields have increased 36 percent since 1995, the last year before biotech varieties were commercially planted.
- With about 92 percent of the U.S. soybean acreage now planted with biotech varieties, soybean yields have increased 12 percent since 1995.
“The fact is, marker-assisted breeding has nearly doubled the rate of yield gain when compared to traditional breeding alone. In developing countries, where resources to effectively control weeds and insects are often limited, these traits have increased yield substantially.
“When you look at the rising number of acres of biotech crops planted each year (309 million in 2008) and the increasing number of farmers who have chosen this technology (13.3 million in 2008), it’s obvious that biotech crops are delivering value to more and more growers around the world.
“When farmer surveys have been conducted on yield benefits from biotech crops, the results have been overwhelmingly positive, with farmers finding their crop yields have increased. These benefits accrue to farmers with both large and small farms.
“At a time when the United States and the world are looking for science-based solutions to help meet the demands of a growing population, agricultural biotechnology is able to deliver heartier crops that yield more per acre in a more environmentally and economically sustainable way. The biotechnology industry is committed to providing solutions to enlist in that effort.”
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BIO represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world.