USDA report says GM crops show mix of benefits, concerns 

| February 26, 2014 |

After more than 15 years of using genetically modified crops, U.S. farmers are continuing to see an array of benefits, but the impacts on the environmental and on food production are mixed, and high farmer use of a popular herbicide on GMO crops is a cause for ongoing concern, according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We are not characterizing them (GMO crops) as bad or good. We are just providing information,” said Michael Livingston, a government agricultural economist and one of the authors of the report, prepared by the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS).

The report, released online on Feb. 20, comes at a time when GMO crops are under intense scrutiny. Consumer groups are calling for tighter regulation of crop research and production and seeking mandatory labeling of foods made with GMOs; environmentalists are reporting increasing concerns about weed resistance and insect resistance to the crops and the chemicals used on them; and some scientific studies are reporting that the chemicals used on the crops are linked to disease and illness.

Read the full original article: U.S. GMO crops show mix of benefits, concerns – USDA report

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  • prism

    The article should be better worded. The concern is about the chemical being used on GMO crops. Farmers tend to use chemicals like weedicides indiscriminately, when they know that the GMO crop will not get killed by the weedicide. Farmers need to get better educated about the use of chemicals.

    • Farmwife

      Due to cost and benefit, as a producer I do not indiscriminately use herbicides. Focus on proper crop rotation, variety, etc need to be the producer’s focus to cover the bottom line. I think you need to learn more about our industry.

      • http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/ Jon Entine

        Just so everyone is aware, the fact that we posted this Reuters story does not mean that the GLP agrees with it. Part of our site is aggregation. Personally, I think this story was quite biased and prevents a misleading picture of the USDA report.

        • eMosso

          “I think this story was quite biased”

          Can you be more specific?

          • http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/ Jon Entine

            Here are examples of how a journalist can bias a report–subtly if that’s her intention. She writes:

            (1) “environmentalists are reporting increasing concerns about weed resistance and insect resistance to the crops and the chemicals used on them”

            Response: First, she uses the word environmentalists, most of whom are anti-GMO. Note she does quote or cite ‘farmers’ or ‘scientists’ or ‘government officials’ because they would reject such a heavy-handed characterization. There is no evidence that weed or insect resistance is linked to “the crops” if by that she means “GMO crops”–she disingenuously did not write GMO crops because there is absolutely no difference in resistance from using conventional crops versus conventional/GMO crops. Weed resistance is part of modern agriculture, as the report makes clear, and does not tease out GMO crops as more harmful. The issue is “chemical resistance” which is not GMO exclusive and is an issue confronted by all farmers, including organic farmers, who overuse certain ‘natural’ pesticides. Farmers have known of weed/chemical resistance issues for decades, are have various means in place to address them. In short, she takes a ‘modern agriculture’ issue–one found across Europe that does not grow GM crops–and deceptively misrepresents it from the report as a GM specific issue.

          • Donald Sutherland

            Jon, the pot calling the kettle black.
            “Here are examples of how a journalist can bias a report–subtly if that’s her intention”….ditto for you too Jon.

            The USDA report is about the chickens coming home to roost.
            Before the emergence of GMO crops there was greater diversity in crop seed selection and rotation systems planting, without the over reliance and over use of one company’s herbicide formula.
            I love your statement: “the toxic output of modern farming has trended downward”. I wonder how you define toxic.

          • http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/ Jon Entine

            Donald, there are thousands of seeds available to farmers. They get to choose what works best for them. Glyphosate is off patent…the overwhelming majority of it is not sold by Monsanto. Use of insecticides, mostly because of the introduction of GM Bt crops, is down TEN FOLD over since GM crops were introduced. According to latest USDA crop report: “Corn insecticide use by both GE seed adopters and nonadopters has decreased — only 9 percent of all U.S. corn farmers used insecticides in 2010.” As Nathanael Johnson wrote over at Grist (accompanied by an amazing USDA graph), “Wow. That’s a success story you don’t normally hear.”

            http://grist.org/food/gmo-yeah-5-surprises-from-an-otherwise-boring-look-at-genetically-modified-crops/

            Let’s be clear here. One line of GMO crops–Bt crops–are specifically designed to cut down on pesticide use. They’ve done that in spades. It’s an amazing success story. Use of pesticides on American farms (but not organic farms) is at an all time low and dropping. In other words, the GMO ‘natural pesticide’ crops are a HUGE success, and the USDA makes a big point of stating that–but you wouldn’t get it from the Reuters biased coverage. What does she write about? The fact that herbicide use is rising. Is that good or bad? She presents it as a ‘negative’–to balance off the good news of herbicide reduction, which she downloads.

            Let’s unpack the ‘herbicide use is going up’ statement. First, GMO crops are not designed to decrease herbicide use–the versions approved all focused on pesticide reduction. Second, there are herbicide resistant crops, such as a Round-up. They’ve allowed farmers to switch from chemicals with a high EIS (environmental impact) to ones with a much lower environmental and health toxic profile. So, while pesticide use has gone up IN TANDEM with increased crop production (which it would have without GM crops), the toxic output of modern farming has trended downward. Of course, that contextualized reporting is no where to be found.

          • Donald Sutherland

            Jon, let’s stay on topic…the USDA survey shows mixed results…look at the data farmers are filing to the USDA and it is showing a trend that the more and more weed species aren’t being controlled by Glyphosate, soil erosion is still a problem, and overhead operating expenses are occuring (increased herbicide, fertilizer, and seed costs)…..

            A small but growing percentage of farmers are moving away from the short sided contracted GMO/Glyphosate formula of farming which doesn’t increase soil nutrient health or control erosion/top soil loss, and going with a long sighted no-till/cover crop farming to protect the soil, preserve yields, and lower operating expenses with drastic glyphosate and fertilizer use…..
            http://www.nass.usda.gov/Surveys/Guide_to_NASS_Surveys/Ag_Resource_Management/ARMS_Soybeans_Factsheet/index.asp#no-till

            Technically both Organic and Conventional farmers can use GMO seeds (cysgenic for organic/cysgenic and transgenic for conventional).

          • Donald Sutherland

            I meant to say Notill/cover crop farmers are drastically reducing their reliance on herbicide/glyphosate while improving soil health….

          • agscienceliterate

            You can’t use gmo seeds for certified organic certification.

          • Donald Sutherland

            Sorry, you are wrong, USDA NOP regulations exempt cisgenic genetically engineered GMOs. Please read:
            http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/05/draft-a-gmo-conundrum-organic-mutageniccell-fusion-hybrid-seeds-are-genetically-engineered/#.VPe0jYY8KrU

      • prism

        I have master’s in your industry and have farmed as well. I know that most farmers are pretty good, but some farmers do use pesticides indiscriminately. I have seen some farmers using systemic insecticides on food crops when we used to visit farms.