Greener Pastures

Genetically modified crops


In the United States, modern biotech crop varieties make up 89 percent of the corn planted each year, 94 percent of the soybeans, and 91 percent of the cotton. In February, agricultural researchers at Purdue University investigated what would happen if anti-biotech activists were successful in getting such crop varieties banned.

Their study calculated that eliminating all genetically modified crops in the U.S. would reduce corn yields by 11.2 percent, soybean yields by 5.2 percent, and cotton yields by 18.6 percent.

To maintain current production, U.S. farmers would then have to plow down an additional 250,000 acres of forests and pastureland. A global ban would require the conversion of 2.7 million acres of forests and pastures into cropland. None of that would be free: U.S. food prices would rise $14 billion to $24 billion per year.

A 2014 meta-analysis by German researchers found that the global adoption of biotech crops has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22 percent, and boosted farmer profits by 68 percent. There's no question that banning biotech crops would undermine environmentalists' professed goal of protecting the natural world.