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Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States

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 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the report on genetically engineered crops in the United States.The report shows that  the genetically engineered (GE) crops (mainly corn, cotton, and soybeans) were planted on 169 million acres in 2013, about half of U.S. land used for crops. Their adoption has saved farmers time, reduced insecticide use, and enabled the use of less toxic herbicides. Research and development of new GE varieties continues to expand farmer choices.

The number of field releases for testing of GE varieties approved by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is an important measure of research and development (R&D) activities in agricultural biotechnology. The number of releases grew from 4 in 1985 to 1,194 in 2002 and averaged around 800 per year thereafter. However, while the number of releases peaked in 2002, other measures of research and development activity—the number of sites per release and the number of gene constructs (ways that the gene of interest is packaged together with other elements)—have increased very rapidly since 2005. Also, releases of GE varieties with agronomic properties (like drought resistance) jumped from 1,043 in 2005 to 5,190 in 2013.

As of September 2013, about 7,800 releases were approved for GE corn, more than 2,200 for GE soybeans, more than 1,100 for GE cotton, and about 900 for GE potatoes. Releases were approved for GE varieties with herbicide tolerance (6,772 releases), insect resistance (4,809), product quality such as flavor or nutrition (4,896), agronomic properties like drought resistance (5,190), and virus/fungal resistance (2,616). The institutions with the most authorized field releases include Monsanto with 6,782, Pioneer/DuPont with 1,405, Syngenta with 565, and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service with 370. As of September 2013, APHIS had received 145 petitions for deregulation (allowing GE seeds to be sold) and had approved 96 petitions: 30 for corn; 15 for cotton; 11 for tomatoes; 12 for soybeans; 8 for rapeseed/canola; 5 for potatoes; 3 for sugarbeets; 2 each for papaya, rice, and squash; and 1 each for alfalfa, plum, rose, tobacco, flax, and chicory.