Genetically modified crops do not provide a higher yield than conventionally grown seeds and actually lead to an increase in herbicide use, according to a groundbreaking new federal report that refutes conventional wisdom.
The USDA’s report does weigh in on the argument about whether genetically modified crops are good or bad, but the GMO review is not a glowing statement of approval, either. In fact, overall it’s negative.
Genetically modified crops first appeared in the United States more than 15 years ago. While some American farmers claim they benefit from growing GMO seeds, the negative impact on honeybees, and quite possibly human health and the environment as well, still abound.
The USDA report said researchers did not find a “definitive” yield increase during the first 15 years of commercial GMO crops production.
“In fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties.”
Several of the researchers discovered “no significant differences” between the net yield returns between farmers using conventional seeds and those using the GMO variety, Reuters reported.
GMO crops have resulted in less insecticide use, although herbicide use is up, the study said.
“Herbicide 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,” it said. “Herbicide use on non-GMO corn has remained relatively level during that same time frame.”
The overuse of herbicides also has led to an increase in weed resistance, the study said. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, the development of “superweeds” now also poses a problem for farmers and homeowners alike. Weeds have become resistant to the current variety of chemical herbicides, growing to record heights despite frequent spraying. Biotech giants like Monsanto are now rushing to develop even stronger chemical mixes to combat superweeds.
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Consumer acceptance of GMO crops depends on the country:
Most studies in industrialized nations find that consumers are willing to pay a premium for foods that don’t contain GE ingredients. However, studies in developing countries yield more mixed results. Some studies, including some with a focus on GE ingredients with positive enhancements (such as nutrition), find consumers to be willing to try GE foods and even to pay a premium for them, while others find a willingness to pay a premium for non-GE foods. Most studies have shown that willingness-to-pay for non-GE foods is higher in the EU, where some retailers have policies limiting the use of GE ingredients. Non-GE foods are available in the United States, but there is evidence that such foods represent a small share of retail food markets.
The USDA GMO crops report was released on February 20. American consumers and organic farmers are continuing to push for GMO contamination and GMO labeling regulations to protect the food supply. The USDA is also in the midst of debating a new Dow Chemical agricultural product which contains the same active ingredient used in Agent Orange during the 1970s.
In 2013, GMO crops covered approximately 169 million acres in the United States – about half the land mass used for farming. GMO corn, GMO soybeans, and cotton comprise the bulk of the genetically modified crops planted in America, according to the USDA report.