American farmers have adopted genetically engineered (GE) crops widely since their introduction in 1996. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. farmers have embraced biotech varieties of soybeans, cotton and corn at the rate of 91%, 88% and 85%, respectively.
This is because agricultural biotechnology allows farmers to grow more food on less land using farming practices that are more cost effective and environmentally sustainable, says Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, executive vice president, Food and Agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
Lauritsen took issue with a report titled Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years, that claims “farmers are increasingly critical of GE crops.”
“There’s no doubt that farmers continue to embrace biotechnology because of the benefits these products deliver, specifically crops that yield more per acre with lower production costs while using farming practices that better protect the land and environment.
“This is especially true for American farmers, four out of five of whom choose biotech crop varieties over conventional crops that require more production inputs to control insects and tilling to control weeds."
Lauritsen says that as a result of biotechnology, more farmers are adopting no-tillage and reduced-tillage systems that utilize herbicidal weed control rather than plowing.
"This is delivering important benefits in the form of improved soil health and water retention, reduced runoff, fuel conservation, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and more efficient carbon storage in the soil," she says.
Lauritsen claims that in 2007, the fuel savings alone from no-till practices was equivalent to removing 31.2 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or equal to removing nearly 6.3 million cars from the road for 1 year.
“Furthermore, biotech crop varieties have dramatically reduced farmers’ reliance on pesticide applications," she says. "Since 1997, the use of pesticides on global biotech crop acreage has been reduced by 790 million pounds, an 8.8% reduction."