A new United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) report released last week has come out with some surprise criticisms of GM crops.
The report appropriately named ‘Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States’ revealed that Genetically Modified (GM) crops (mainly corn, cotton, and soybeans) were planted on 169 million acres in 2013, about half of US land used for crops.
Despite the expected positive tone of the whole report due to the USDA’s usual total support of GM Crops, there were some telling signs that even the USDA has certain doubts creeping into their system.
Sustainable Pulse has selected a number of the USDA’s criticisms:
- Over the first 15 years of commercial use, GE seeds have not been shown to increase yield potentials of the varieties. In fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties…
- The fact that several researchers found no significant differences between the net returns of adopters and nonadopters of HT crops (particularly HT soybeans) despite the rapid adoption of these crops suggests that many adopters may derive nonmonetary benefits from HT adoption.
- Herbicide (Roundup) use on GMO corn increased from around 1.5 pounds per planted acre in 2001 to more than 2.0 pounds per planted acre in 2010. Herbicide use on non-GMO corn has remained relatively level during that same time frame, the ERS said.
- Herbicide toxicity may soon be negatively affected (compared to glyphosate) by the introduction (estimated for 2014) of crops tolerant to the herbicides dicamba and 2,4-D.
- HT adoption likely reduced herbicide use initially, but herbicide resistance among weed populations may have induced farmers to raise application rates in recent years, thus offsetting some of the economic and environmental advantages of HT corn adoption regarding herbicide use
Despite this criticism the ERS report was as expected mostly very supportive of GM Crops and also contained some worrying information for US citizens including: Researchers have thousands of tests underway in U.S. fields for new crops. As of September 2013, about 7,800 releases have been approved for genetically engineered (GE) corn, more than 2,200 for GE soybeans, more than 1,100 for GE cotton, and about 900 for GE potatoes.
Of those releases, 6772 were for GE varieties with herbicide tolerance, 4,809 for insect resistance, and 4,896 for product quality such as flavor or nutrition, and 5,190 for drought resistance.
Monsanto has the most authorized field releases with 6,782, followed by DuPont Pioneer, with 1,405.