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USDA Finds More Acres Planted In GE Crops

U.S. farmers are planting more GE crops, with soybeans leading the charge in 2013

Published on: Jul 17, 2013

According to USDA data released earlier this month, GE crops still have a big stronghold in the U.S., with herbicide-tolerant soybeans leading the way amongst Bt and herbicide-tolerant corn and cotton.

Based on USDA survey data, HT soybeans went from 17% of the U.S. soybean acreage in 1997 to 68% in 2001 and 93% in 2013. Plantings of HT cotton expanded from about 10% of U.S. acreage in 1997 to 56% in 2001 and 82% in 2013.

USDA said the adoption of HT corn also has accelerated, reaching 85% of corn acreage in 2013.

USDA Finds More Acres Planted In GE Crops

USDA Economic Research Service graphic

U.S. farmers are planting more GE crops, with soybeans leading the charge in 2013
U.S. farmers are planting more GE crops, with soybeans leading the charge in 2013

Bt crops, which USDA estimates will show larger fluctuations in planting due to changing populations of corn rootworm and European corn borer, have also increased.

In 1997, 8% of the U.S. corn crop planted was Bt, compared to to 26% in 1999. That tally then fell to 19% in 2000 and 2001, before climbing to 29% in 2003 and 76% in 2013.

Plantings of Bt cotton also expanded rapidly, from 15% of U.S. cotton acreage in 1997 to 37% in 2001, peaked at 77% in 2012 and stood at 75% in 2013.

Similar to corn, USDA said adoption of Bt cotton depends on the expected infestation of Bt target pests, such as the tobacco budworm, the bollworm, and the pink bollworm.

USDA Finds More Acres Planted In GE Crops

USDA Finds More Acres Planted In GE Crops

USDA Economic Research Service graphics

However, adoption appears to have reached the low-growth phase, as adoption has already occurred on acreage where Bt protection is needed most. Insects have not posed major problems for soybeans, so insect-resistant varieties have not been developed.

USDA notes that the tallies do include stacked varieties of corn and cotton. Specifically, stacked varieties accounted for 67% of cotton plantings and 71% of corn acres in 2013.

Adoption of all GE cotton, taking into account the acreage with either or both HT and Bt traits, reached 90% of cotton acreage in 2013, versus 93% for soybeans, which have only HT varieties.

Adoption of all biotech corn accounted for 90% of corn acreage in 2013.

Global trend?

Though USDA does not report on global GE acreage, estimates are produced by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, the agency said.

According to ISAAA, farmers grew a record 170.3 million hectares of biotech crops – that's up 6% and is 10.3 million hectares more than in 2011. Developing nations' plantings accounted for 52% of the global biotech crops in 2012, up from 50% a year earlier. Data from 2012 is the most recent available.

While U.S. remains the largest grower, a fast-track science-based approval system allows Brazil to adopt new biotech crops in a timely manner, ISAAA said. Brazil ranks second only to the U.S. in worldwide biotech crop hectarage, growing at a year-to-year record 6.3 million hectares, or 21%, to reach 36.6 million hectares in 2012.