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2-Plants: US farms to plant more biotech crops

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TITLE:  US farms to plant more biotech crops - USDA study
SOURCE: Reuters, by Randy Fabi
DATE:   July 1, 2002

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US farms to plant more biotech crops - USDA study

WASHINGTON - U.S. farmers are expected to plant more genetically modified 
crops in the coming years thanks to higher financial returns and less 
dependence on pesticides, according to a government report released last 
week. In its two-year study, the U.S. Agriculture Department said demand 
for biotech seed would continue to grow, "Unless there is a radical change 
in consumer sentiment concerning (these) crops." Adoption of biotech crops 
has grown rapidly since they first became available to U.S. farmers in 
1996. "All in all, we conclude that there are tangible benefits to farmers 
adopting first-generation (genetically engineered) crops," the USDA study 

The United States is the world's largest producer of crops that are 
genetically modified to make them resistant to pests or to withstand 
herbicides that kill nearby weeds. Critics of genetically modified crops 
say not enough research has been done to assure the new technology was safe 
for the environment and public health.

In a separate report, USDA last week estimated that 75 percent of the 
soybeans planted by U.S. farmers this year contained genetically modified 
organisms, up from 68 percent in 2001. About 34 percent of the U.S. corn 
planted had GMOs, up from 26 percent last year. GMO cotton accounted for 71 
percent of total plantings, compared with last year's 69 percent. The USDA 
study, based on farm surveys conducted in 1998 and 1999, said many GMO 
crops helped increased farm income.

USDA said boosting the use of biotech cotton by 10 percent translated into 
a yield increase between 1.7 percent and 2.1 percent. Herbicide-tolerant 
soybeans translated into a 0.3 percent increase. No data was available for 
corn. The study said GMO crops that withstand herbicides would continue to 
increase in popularity, while demand for pest-resistant seeds - or Bt seeds 
- would be stagnant. "Future adoption rates for Bt corn and Bt cotton are 
expected to increase little or possibly decrease, mainly limited by the 
infestation levels of their respective Bt target pests," USDA said.

The study also found an overall reduction in pesticide use related to the 
increased adoption of GMOs. Farmland treated with pesticides decreased by 
19.1 million acres between the 1997 and 1998 crops. The amount of 
pesticides used also declined by about 2.5 million pounds, USDA said. USDA 
said the report's conclusions should be interpreted carefully since the 
study was based on only two years.


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