Friday, November 21, 2008

Rapid Growth in Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops Continues, 92% of Planted Soybean Acres In US Are Genetically Engineered

According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, U.S. farmers have rapidly taken to planting genetically engineered (GE) soybeans, cotton, and corn with herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance traits.

In the U.S., Herbicide Tolerant (HT) soybean adoption has expanded more rapidly and widely than other GE crops, reaching 92 percent of planted soybean acreage in 2008. The second most adopted variety, HT cotton, was planted on 68 percent of cotton acreage. The level of HT corn adoption, has recently accelerated, reaching 63 percent of U.S. corn acreage.

Insect-resistant (Bt) crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that produces a protein toxic to specific insects. Bt cotton was planted on 63 percent of U.S. cotton acreage in 2008. Bt corn was planted on 57 percent of U.S. corn acreage in 2008.

The rapid increase in the adoption of crop varieties with more than one GE trait (stacked traits) continues. Corn varieties with both Bt and HT traits account for 40 percent of planted acres in 2008, while cotton varieties with stacked traits account for 45 percent of cotton-planted acres.

In addition to corn, soybeans, and cotton, U.S. farmers have adopted HT canola and virus-resistant papaya and squash. Other GE crops are in various stages of development. As of May 2008, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had approved 1,311 field-testing applications for crops with resistance to virus, 842 for resistance to fungi, 2,200 for improved agronomic properties (such as resistance to cold, drought, and salinity), and 3,362 for higher product quality (including crops with increased protein and/or oil content, and crops with added vitamins and iron).

Worldwide, more than 280 million acres of GE crops with HT and/or Bt traits were planted in 23 countries in 2007, with the U.S. accounting for about 50 percent. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, China, Paraguay, and South Africa accounted for about 49 percent.
Despite the rapid expansion of GE crops, there is still no requirement that products made from GE crops be labeled as such. Given the prevalence of GE planted acres, the American consumer can more or less assume products bought commercially will contain GE crops or ingredients derived from GE crops.

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