(Beyond Pesticides, July 11, 2007) According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service, the number of genetically engineered (GE) crop acres by U.S. farmers has skyrocketed since their introduction in 1996, despite resistance from consumers and concerns about agricultural and environmental impacts. Because the U.S. does not require GE crops to be labeled, the only way to be sure you are not consuming these products is to buy organic, which forbids the use of GE technologies.
Soybeans and cotton genetically engineered with herbicide-tolerant traits have been the most widely and rapidly adopted GE crops in the U.S., followed by insecticide-incorporated cotton and corn. The chart below shows the growth of GE soybeans, cotton and corn since 1996. (HT = modified to be herbicide tolerant, Bt = modified to produce the insecticide Bt)
Since 2000, use of HT soybeans has increased from 54% of acreage planted with the crop to 91% in 2007. GE corn varieties, both HT and Bt, have increased from 25% to 73%. Cotton varieties, both HT and Bt, have increased from 61% to 87%.
In addition to the lack of information available on the long-term safety of GE products, Beyond Pesticides is concerned with the environmental and health effects of pesticide applications and residues. As courts have found in the past, risks associated with GE seeds are not limited to product consumption. Herbicide-resistant weeds, pollen drift, impact on organic agriculture and exported crops were enough to convince a federal judge that USDA was obligated to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before allowing use of GE alfalfa.
Glyphosate-resistant weeds have led to the recent laboratory development of dicamba-resistant GE crops by University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) researchers. UNL has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Monsanto to develop crops using the new technology.
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