According to a new USDA report released July 1, American farmers have adopted genetically engineered crops widely since their introduction in 1996, especially corn, cotton and soybean varieties. The Economic Research Service report includes key findings:
• Adoption of GE soybeans is 91 percent in 2009.
• Adoption of all GE cotton reached 88 percent in 2009.
• Adoption of all biotech corn climbed to 85 percent in 2009.
Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, Executive Vice President, Food and Agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued the following statement in response to the report’s findings:
“Because of the compelling benefits that biotech crops provide, herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant varieties of corn, cotton and soybeans continue to be the choice of American farmers. Since 1996, these crops have proved to yield more per acre and reduce farmers’ production costs with more environmentally friendly farming practices.”
The report summarizes the extent of adoption of herbicide-tolerant and insect–resistant crops since their introduction in 1996. Three tables within the report devoted to corn, cotton, and soybeans cover the 2000-09 period by U.S. state.
A copy of the USDA ERS report, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S. (July 1, 2009) including data tables, can be read here.
The Corn Farmers Coalition recently published a “Corn Fact Book” full of great stats on farming and corn production. Some of my favorites:
• By 2005, the U.S. was the world’s biggest grower of biotech crops with more than half. It’s thought that global farming would have been $5 billion less without these crops. The biggest gains have been in soybeans and cotton. However, corn boosted farm income by more than $3 billion in 2005.
• Thanks in part to ag biotech, it takes 40% less land and 50% less energy to produce a bushel of corn than it did in 1987.
• Farmers grow five times as much corn as they did in the 1930s — on 20 percent less land.
• Reduced tillage and other farm management practices have reduced soil erosion 43% in 20 years.
• A farmer can save as much as 3.5 gallons of fuel an acre from no-till farming, which is possible with some biotech crops.
• The Federal Bureau of Labor statistics say that most farms employ only the farmer and perhaps a family member or a hired hand or two.
• The US produces enough corn that we can afford to export one in every five rows of corn each year and still have enough for domestic needs.
• Individuals or families own 82% of American corn farms. Another 6% are family held corporations; 11% are owned by partnerships; and the remaining handful — less than 4,000 — are owned by other types of corporations or estates, trusts and institutions.
• The average corn farm has fewer than 250 acres. Only 8% are bigger than 2,000 acres according to government statistics.