The United States is the world’s leader in developing and adopting biotechnology to enhance the yield and quality of agricultural commodities. Despite the rapid adoption of genetic modified (GM) crops by farmers in many countries around the world, however, controversies about this technology continue.

To help evaluate the evidence about GM crops, a German report was recently published outlining the results of a meta-analysis of agronomic and economic impacts of GM crops.

The report examined 147 original studies that built on primary data from farm surveys or field trials anywhere in the world reporting impacts of GM soybean, maize, or cotton on crop yields, pesticide use and/or farmer profits.

“This report is important for the U.S. Grains Council because 93 percent of all U.S. corn acres were planted with biotech varieties in 2014,” said Andrew Conner, USGC manager of biotechnology. “Therefore, all exports of U.S. corn and corn products – except for cargoes specifically contracted and identity preserved as non-biotech – must be assumed to contain biotech varieties.”

The new report presented findings that GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22 percent and increased farmer profits by 68 percent. The report also found yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops.

“This report backs the Council’s statements that biotechnology helps farmers increase yields, lower production costs, reduce the use of agricultural chemicals and enhance the quality of their grain,” Conner said.

“However, there is no uniform international process for approving new biotechnology varieties. This means that individual countries establish policies and regulatory processes with widely varying levels of capacity and political interference. The diversity of approaches gives rise to uncoordinated approval timelines that can threaten trade or, at a minimum, increase its cost unnecessarily.”

The Council monitors key trade partners and remains alert to early indications of trade disruptions to U.S. corn exports caused by biotech polices of importing countries. 

In addition, the Council has partnered with the major corn producer organizations in the United States, Brazil and Argentina to form MAIZALL, a farmer-led alliance designed  to address issues of common concern that affect global corn trade. This partnership is bringing new, creative solutions to resolving trade barriers related to biotechnology and communicating the benefits of modern farming technologies and practices.