Corn, soy yields gain little from genetic engineering: study

Apr 14, 2009
A farmer harvests his soybean crop near Ottawa, Illinois in 2007. The use of genetically engineered corn and soybeans in the United States for more than a decade has had little impact on crop yields despite claims that they could ease looming food shortages, a study released on Tuesday concluded.

The use of genetically engineered corn and soybeans in the United States for more than a decade has had little impact on crop yields despite claims that they could ease looming food shortages, a study released on Tuesday concluded.

"A hard-nosed assessment of this expensive technology's achievements to date gives little confidence that it will play a major role in helping the world feed itself in the forseeable future," said the report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The study evaluated the effect on corn and soybean crop yields of genetically engineered varieties commercialized in the United States over the past 13 years, examining peer-reviewed academic studies that date back to the early 1990s.

"Based on that record, we conclude that GE () has done little to increase overall crop yields," it said.

The report said genetically engineered soybeans account for 90 percent of soybeans grown in the United States, while genetically engineered corn accounts for 63 percent of the US corn crop.

"Overall, corn and soybean yields have risen substantially over the last 15 years, but largely not as a result of the GE traits," the report said. "Most of the gains are due to traditional breeding or improvement of other agricultural practices."

It found that corn and soybeans that were genetically modified to increase their tolerance to herbicides "have not increased operational yields, whether on a per acre or national basis, compared to conventional methods that rely on other available herbicides."

Corn modified with genes from Bt, or Bacillus thuringienisis, bacteria for resistance to several kinds of insects did provide higher yields, but the study estimated the increase at between 0.2 and 0.3 percent a year on average over the past 13 years.

Overall corn yields in the United States have increased an average of about one percent a year, it said.

"More specifically, US Department of data indicate that the average corn production per acre nationwide over the past five years (2004-2008) was about 28 percent higher than for the five-year period 1991-1995," it said.

"But our analysis of specific yield studies concludes that only 4-5 percent of that increase is attributable to Bt, meaning an increase of about 24-25 percent must be due to other factors such as conventional breeding," it said.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Heaven scent: Finding may help restore fragrance to roses

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study on pesticides in lab rat feed causes a stir

Jul 02, 2015

French scientists published evidence Thursday of pesticide contamination of lab rat feed which they said discredited historic toxicity studies, though commentators questioned the analysis.

International consortium to study plant fertility evolution

Jul 02, 2015

Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology, has joined a consortium of seven other researchers in four European countries to develop the fullest understanding yet of how fertilization evolved in flowering plants. The research, ...

Making the biofuels process safer for microbes

Jul 02, 2015

A team of investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University have created a process for making the work environment less toxic—literally—for the organisms that do the heavy ...

Why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public

Jul 02, 2015

Whether commanding the attention of rock star Neil Young or apparently being supported by the former head of Greenpeace, genetically modified food is almost always in the news – and often in a negative ...

The hidden treasure in RNA-seq

Jul 01, 2015

Michael Stadler and his team at the Friedrich Miescher institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) have developed a novel computational approach to analyze RNA-seq data. By comparing intronic and exonic RNA reads, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.