NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Surprising Jump In Use Of Biotech Seeds

July 2, 2001

Farmers are once again embracing genetically modified seeds, surveys from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other sources show. The biotech crop boom that started in 1996 suddenly stalled in late 1999 in the wake of objections by anti-technology groups. But if plantings this spring are any indication, biotech is making a roaring comeback.

  • Although industry insiders had expected use of biotech seeds to grow only a modest 10 percent this year, farmers used genetically modified seed to plant 82.3 million acres -- up 18 percent from last year.
  • Some 68 percent of all soybeans planted in the U.S. this spring contained a Monsanto Co. gene -- up from 54 percent planted last year.
  • Cotton farmers planted genetically modified seed on 11.2 million acres this year -- 69 percent of total cotton acreage and 18 percent more acres than last year.
  • However, just 26 percent of total corn acreage received GM seed -- essentially flat compared with last year.

Monsanto's modified soybean contains a gene that gives the plant immunity from the company's all-purpose herbicide, Roundup. The seed, called Roundup Ready, is popular with farmers because it allows them to chemically weed soybeans without damaging the crop.

A reason GM corn really hasn't taken off like other seeds is that the biotech industry hasn't yet introduced a plant that appeals to all corn farmers, experts say. Roundup Ready corn is stymied by the failure of the European Union to approve it for human consumption.

Source: Scott Kilman, "Use of Genetically Modified Seed by U.S. Farmers Increased 18 Percent," Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2001.

For text (interactive subscription required


Browse more articles on Environment Issues