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Quantifying the Benefits of GE Crops

July 13, 2015
Did you know that over 90% of soybeans, cotton and corn grown in America are genetically engineered? Since the year 2000, the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), part of the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), has been tracking the percent of GE crops grown on U.S. soil. Their results are now summarized in an easy-to-read table which highlights the widespread adoption of GE crops across the country. Here are their key findings:

  • Of all soybeans grown in the United States, 94 percent is a genetically engineered variety in 2015.

  • Of all cotton grown in the United States, 94 percent is a genetically engineered variety in 2015.

  • Of all corn grown in the United States, 92 percent is a genetically engineered variety in 2015.

This broad application reflects how modern farmers recognize the economic, environmental, and societal benefits of GE crops. NASS is not the only service to quantify these benefits, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) has also extensively researched the effects of biotech crops. It found that biotech crops are the fastest adopted crop technology in the world:
The global hectarage of biotech crops has increased more than 100-fold from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 181.5 million hectares in 2014 – this makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent times. This impressive adoption rate speaks for itself, in terms of its sustainability, resilience and the significant benefits it delivers to both small and large farmers as well as consumers.

ISAAA also provides statistics showing that GE crops have been contributing to the alleviation of poverty and hunger, the reduction of agriculture’s environmental footprint, and the conservation of biodiversity due to its land saving technology.
Provisional data for 1996 to 2013 showed that biotech crops contributed to Food Security, Sustainability and Climate Change by: increasing crop production valued at US$133.3 billion; providing a better environment, by saving ~500 million kg a.i. of pesticides in 1996-2012; in 2013 alone reducing CO2 emissions by 28 billion kg, equivalent to taking 12.4 million cars off the road for one year; conserving biodiversity in the period 1996-2013 by saving 132 million hectares of land; and helped alleviate poverty by helping 16.5 million small farmers, and their families totaling >65 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world.

The USA is the leading producer of biotech crops making up to 40% of the global biotech hectarage, which makes our farmers responsible for almost half of the world’s GE food supply. Our farmers are setting a precedent showing how GE crops can both benefit their farms as well as benefit the world.
“Genetically engineered crops allow growers to produce the most reliable and abundant yields with less tilling of the soil and fewer applications of insecticides,” explained O’Mara. “These are just a few of the reasons why farmers and growers here in the United States – as well as 18 million farmers around the world – choose to plant biotech crop varieties where they are available.”

BIO’s official statement on the report can be found here