New, drought-resistant strains of corn helped farmers get through the drought in 2012 that cut the harvest to about 75 percent of what would have been expected with ordinary weather, according to “U.S. Drought 2012: Farm and Food Impacts,” a recent USDA report. Even with pressure from the drought, the harvest was a quite sizeable.
“The harvest was the eighth largest in U.S. history, a reflection of a big increase in recent years in the number of acres planted and crop technology that has improved plants’ ability to withstand drought,” according to a recent article from the Associated Press. READ MORE »
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced today its final decision to deregulate a variety of sugar beet, commonly known as Roundup Ready (RR) sugar beets, that is genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate.
APHIS said the following in a statement: “After completing both a thorough environmental impact statement (EIS) and plant pest risk assessment (PPRA), holding three public meetings and considering and analyzing thousands of comments regarding its analyses, APHIS has determined that, from the standpoint of plant pest risk, RR sugar beets are as safe as traditionally bred sugar beets.”
This decision comes as good news to farmers, who can now freely cultivate the sugar beets, benefitting from a technology that allows more precise and environmentally benign control of weeds. Read more.
According to the USDA’s annual report on the adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops in the U.S., there has been a substantial increase in the amount of biotech corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the U.S. since 2000.
Dr. Cathleen Enright, Executive Vice President for Food and Agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), said in a statement, “The need for advanced seed technology is more important than ever as we look to provide the food, feed, fuel and fiber for nine billion people by 2050. Farmers in the United States and around the world need the best tools available to achieve this goal amid the challenges of drought and climate change.”
The following are some of the key findings of the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), which conducted the study:
- Genetically engineered cotton is 94 percent of all cotton grown in the United States in 2012 (up from 90 percent in 2011).
- Genetically engineered soybeans are 93 percent of all soybeans grown in the United States in 2012 (down slightly from 94 percent in 2011; was at 93 percent in 2010).
- Genetically engineered corn is 88 percent of all corn grown in the United States in 2012 (was 88 percent in 2011, and 86 percent in 2010).
To view the USDA’s data on corn, cotton and soybeans, refer to the Economic Research Service’s website here.
Considering there is limited supply of farmland, a billion people who are underfed, and a growing population, “organic methods alone can’t feed the world in a sustainable way,” Marc Gunther says in Sustainable Business Forum.
He cites scientific research published last month in the Nature International Weekly Journal of Science, which finds that “overall, organic yields are typically lower than conventional yields.”
The study, Gunther observes, “points to a key drawback in organic agriculture: it is typically less efficient and productive than conventional growing methods.” In today’s world, with a limited supply of farmland, a billion people who are underfed, and a growing population, Gunther points out, “organic methods alone can’t feed the world in a sustainable way.”
Noting that “less than 1% of US farmland is farmed organically,” Gunther points out that most farmers use conventional methods to ensure high productivity. Biotechnology is widely used across the U.S. to increase the yield of staple foods. According to the USDA’s data on U.S. agriculture in 2011, 94% of soybeans grown were biotech; 90% of cotton is biotech and 88% of corn is biotech. Read more.
The challenge of feeding a growing world population demands the use of new technologies, including biotechnology, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said Wednesday.
“I don’t think you can make a quantum leap in food production without embracing new technologies, including biotechnology,” he said. “We have to not be afraid of new technology. We have to make sure we have good science, so that safety is a priority. But we won’t be able to meet the ultimate threat without going down this road,” he said.
Glickman spoke during a panel discussion sponsored by AGree, a program addressing food and agricultural policy. He said he raised questions about biotech during his tenure at the Department of Agriculture (1995-2001), but ultimately became convinced of the safety and efficacy of biotechnology.