Report Highlights Benefits of Genetically Enhanced Crops

U.S. farmers growing genetically enhanced (GE) crops see more economic and environmental benefits compared with conventional crops, including lower production costs, fewer pest problems, reduced use of pesticides and better yields, according to a new report from the National Research Council. The U.S. Grains Council is a major advocate for the benefits GE crops bring to producers and has long led the charge against misinformation circulating around the perceived dangers of genetically enhanced grains.

According to Gary Schmalshof of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and USGC biotechnology advisory team leader, “This study confirmswhat we farmers have known all along: that biotech crops are more beneficial to the environment and make good economic sense for agriculture. U.S. farmers are, first and foremost, stewards of the land. All of us want what is best for the water, soil and environment because it is our livelihood, and because we and our families and communities live on the land we farm and what is harmful to the environment is harmful to us.â€� 

In this report, the National Research Council noted that further studies should be conducted to document issues such as weed resistance problems and to further develop resistance-management practices.

“While we agree this issue warrants further study, weed resistance is not unique to biotech crops, but is a common issue associated with herbicide use,� said Rebecca Fecitt, USGC director of biotechnology programs.

Still, according to the report, the benefits are hard to ignore: improvements in water quality could prove to be the largest single benefit of GE crops in addition to the fact that insecticide use has declined since GE crops were introduced in 1996. Farmers who grow GE crops use fewer insecticides and herbicides that linger in soil and waterways and those who grow herbicide-resistant crops till less often to control weeds and are more likely to practice conservation tillage, which improves soil quality and water filtration and reduces erosion. Other advantages include lower production costs or higher yields, or sometimes both, due to more cost-effective weed and insect control and fewer losses from insect damage.

Written by Jodi Kiely, USGC Contributing Writer

About the U.S. Grains Council

The U.S. Grains Council develops export markets for U.S. barley, corn, sorghum and related products including distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and ethanol. With full-time presence in 13 key markets and representatives in an additional 15 locations, the Council operates programs in more than 50 countries and the European Union. The Council believes exports are vital to global economic development and to U.S. agriculture’s profitability. Detailed information about the Council and its programs is online at www.grains.org.