USFRA supports farmers’ choices to plant and grow conventional crops, GM crops, organic crops or a combination.  Similarly, USFRA supports consumers’ choices to purchase foods they prefer.  Many of our farmers plant GM seeds for reasons such as protecting their crops from adverse weather.  Some of our farmers choose organic production.  All of these methods of production contribute to meeting consumer demands for food products as well as producing healthy choices for everyone and protecting the environment.

Farmers also use GM seeds to reduce crop damage from weeds, diseases and insects as well as from adverse weather conditions such as drought or flooding.  GM seeds often allow farmers to be more precise about their use of inputs like nutrients, pesticides and water needed to grow crops.

Safety and FDA Review

“FDA has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.”

Since 1995, food from GM seeds has been commercially available and has been proven safe for human and animal consumption.  No other crops have been more studied or subject to greater scientific review.  GM seeds undergo testing for safety, health and nutritional value – and regulation is overseen by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Research shows that the current commercial crops from GM seeds have the same nutritional properties as non-GM seed crops and are not harmful for humans and animals to consume.  In the years that farmers have grown crops from GM seeds (since 1995), there has not been a single instance of harm to human health. 

For roughly 10,000 years, farmers have been genetically altering plants and seeds through selective breeding to improve characteristics such as hardiness, yield, taste and nutrition. Today’s GM seeds are part of this evolution – their development is sped up and more precise by inserting the genes from one plant into another in a laboratory setting. 

Using Fewer Resources to Feed More People

As the world’s population grows, possibly adding two billion more people by 2050, and agricultural production land resources stay the same or shrink, GM seeds can be a critical tool in feeding the world without depleting resources or harming the environment.  GM seeds can contribute to a reduction in the amount of land, water and chemicals needed to produce more food.  This can contribute greatly to conservation and environmental stewardship, in particular helping to save protected land and keeping soil healthy.

A Commitment to Answering Consumer Questions – and Meeting Their Demands

USFRA understands that some consumers may have important questions about food from GM seeds. Farmers and ranchers and their industry partners should strive to answer these questions. We encourage farmers and ranchers to share their personal opinions and stories about why they chose to use or not to use GM seeds with consumers.  Additionally, we encourage objective, scientifically verified research to uncover additional GM seed potential for human, animal and planet health.

Consumers have the right to choose what foods they want. USFRA supports transparency, which can take a variety of forms, in products grown or produced from GM seeds.  Food from GM seeds has the same nutritional characteristics as food from seeds produced through conventional breeding, including organic crops.  It is inaccurate to categorize food from GM seeds as harmful to human health because it simply has not been proven. USFRA encourages all consumers to turn to trustworthy, scientifically valid sources of information.

The USDA and FDA state the following:

  • “If a bioengineered food is significantly different from its traditional counterpart such that the common or usual name no longer adequately describes the new food, the name must be changed to describe the difference.
  • If an issue exists for the food or a constituent of the food regarding how the food is used or consequences of its use, a statement must be made on the label to describe the issue.
  • If a bioengineered food has a significantly different nutritional property, its label must reflect the difference.
  • If a new food includes an allergen that consumers would not expect to be present based on the name of the food, the presence of that allergen must be disclosed on the label.  To read more click here.  

No commercial available food from GM seeds meets these criteria.

What commercially available crops use GM seeds?

  • Corn (88 percent of U.S. corn acres, 2011)
    • Sweet Corn
    • Field Corn
  • Soybean (94 percent of U.S. soybean acres)
  • Cotton (90 percent)
  • Canola planted on 462,000 hectares
  • Sugar beets
  • Papaya
  • Alfalfa
  • Squash

(ISAAA)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of GM seeds?

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

  • Despite the fact that crops from GM seeds and plants produced using genetic modification undergo more safety testing than any other agriculture products, including conventional or organic crops, some people believe more research needs to be done.
  • The ability to protect GM seed plants from herbicides that destroy weeds may lead to herbicide resistant weeds. In addition, overuse of a single pesticide when growing GM seed crops may lead to a pesticide resistance in insects. The agriculture industry takes these threats seriously and is constantly studying and creating best practices.  http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12804&page=214
  • The names used to describe GM seeds ’ including GMO and genetically engineered ’ can sound threatening to consumers and create a marketing disadvantage for products with ingredients from GM seeds.

Do GM crops contribute to super weeds?

  • Fact: The problem of weed resistance is not limited to GM crops. Weeds are one of the most significant problems for farmers, second only to soil erosion. Controlling weeds can be done by using clean equipment and seeds, rotating crops, applying herbicides, mulching, mowing, tilling, and cultivating. If a farmer repetitively uses the same crop protection product to control weeds, weeds may develop resistance. Crop rotation and employing a variety of weed control options is the best defense against resistance.

Are GM seeds really important to feed the world’s growing population? Isn’t that all just hype and marketing?

  • Fact: By the middle of the century, we may need to grow twice as much food with the same resources to keep up with population growth. We may need to feed two billion more people by 2050. GM seeds can be an important solution to this challenge and help protect the environment.
  • Even in the past 15 years, without GM seeds, more land would have been needed to grow the same amount of crops (see estimates below). This could have meant and could mean in the future turning protected and conserved lands into farms without the use of GM seeds.
  • The PG Economics seventh annual report on crop biotechnology impacts states that, ’if crop biotechnology had not been available to the (15.4 million) farmers using the technology in 2010, maintaining global production levels at the 2010 levels would have required additional plantings of 5.1 million ha of soybeans, 5.6 million ha of corn, 3 million ha of cotton and 0.35 million ha of canola. This total area requirement is equivalent to 8.6 percent of the arable land in the US, 23 percent of the arable land in Brazil or 25 percent of the cereal area in the EU (27). Being that the amount of arable land is fixed, the need for increased planting would likely have pulled fragile marginal lands and tropical forests into production.

Some people say organic crops can produce the same yields as GM and conventional crops. Is this true?

  • Fact: A recent Nature article stated: ’Crop yields from organic farming are as much as 34 percent lower than those from comparable conventional farming practices, the analysis finds.’ McGill University in Montreal and the University of Minnesota performed an analysis of 66 studies comparing conventional and organic methods across 34 different crop species. Additionally, according to the FAO, we must increase food production by 70 percent by 2050 to feed an estimated 9 billion people.
  • The PG Economics seventh annual report on crop biotechnology impacts states that, ’if crop biotechnology had not been available to the (15.4 million) farmers using the technology in 2010, maintaining global production levels at the 2010 levels would have required additional plantings of 5.1 million ha of soybeans, 5.6 million ha of corn, 3 million ha of cotton and 0.35 million ha of canola. This total area requirement is equivalent to 8.6 percent of the arable land in the US, 23 percent of the arable land in Brazil or 25 percent of the cereal area in the EU (27). Being that the amount of arable land is fixed, the need for increased planting would likely have pulled fragile marginal lands and tropical forests into production.
  • When initially released, yield drag may have an area of concern for GM seeds. With time and breeding techniques, herbicide and insect resistance traits have been incorporated into high-yielding germ plasm, resulting in better yields.

GM seeds mean agribusiness ’owns’ seeds and hurts farmers, right?

  • Fact: Seed has been patented in the United States since the 1930’s. The ability of universities, seed companies and individuals to patent their developments has spurred improved products that have significantly increased agricultural productivity. Farmers are very familiar with their choices of whether or not to buy patented seeds.
  • Biotechnology gives farmers, regardless of the size of their operations, the potential to increase productivity and profitability by planting seeds with specialized value-added traits and resistance to insects, viruses and disease. Biotechnology has not been proven to be harmful, is effective and widely used by more than 16 million farmers around the world. Large and small scale farmers across the world recognize the value of biotech crops and the graph below shows the global area of GM crop adoption.

Is food grown with GM seeds contributing to chronic diseases or allergies in America?

  • Fact: Crops from GM seeds are identical to those from non-GM seeds. In addition, organic foods are identical in nutritional value to non-organic foods.
  • "The nutritional value of GMO foods is tested and compared against non-GMO foods. Numerous studies have shown no nutritional difference between commercially available GMO and non-GMO foods. In fact, genetic modifications can actually improve nutritional content for some foods."--Dr. Peggy Lamaux, Cooperative Extensions Specialist at the University of California, Berkeley as quoted on Bestfoodfacts.org
  • Proteins used in GM seed crops are not allergenic, and these proteins do not appear in commercial oils or in the meat, milk, or eggs or animals fed with genetically modified foods.
  • Some people believe that GM seed use for commercial crops is widespread in whole fruits and vegetables. Commercially available crops from biotech seeds only include corn, soybean, cotton, canola, alfalfa and squash (viral resistant) and nothing beyond that. Fruits and vegetables from GM seeds are not commercially available. Any changes in those crops are not the result of biotech seeds. For example, seedless fruits available today are the result of conventional breeding, not GM seeds.

If the EU and other regions of the world restrict biotech crops, why don’t we in America?

  • Fact: The EU has not banned genetically modified crops, contrary to what many believe. Rather, they review traits on a gene-by-gene basis. The EU has an intense review process that some experts say is not always based on scientific research for approvals. According to a May 2012 posting on Nature.com, "In practice, however, the decision whether or not to approve a particular GMO is not solely a scientific issue. Several member states vote, in principle, against approval, irrespective of the scientific opinion delivered by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In recognition of this dead-lock, the European Commission (EC) has suggested that individual member states should have the right to restrict cultivation of a given GM crop even if there are no scientifically established risks, that is, to adopt restrictions on the basis of socio-economical or ethical grounds."  http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/embor201259a.html

How are farmers and ranchers improving with the use of biotech seeds in America?

  • According to the 2010 report of the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences "The Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States" concludes:
    • Farmers are using better tillage conversation methods with the use of genetically engineered crops.
    • Farmers are using less intense herbicides with some GM seed crops. Glyphosate binds quickly to the crop and expires in a short amount of time, reducing environmental impact.
    • With continued research and development, GM seeds in years are posed to produce better yields, improve nutrition benefits of certain crops, use less water, and allow for the increasingly precise use of fertilizers and pesticides http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12804#toc