Genetically modified crops, also known as GM crops, are plants used in agriculture which have been modified by using genetic engineering methods. Other names commonly used for these crops are genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and Biotechnology. The genetic modifications are done in order to create crop varieties with desirable traits, such as tolerance against herbicides and specific pests.
Acreage of GM crops
Since 2015, the acreage of GM crop production has increased slightly, but this rate of growth is much slower than in previous years. In 2019, nearly 190 million hectares were planted with genetically engineered crops worldwide. By country comparison, the United States had the highest acreage GM crops. Brazil and Argentina are the next leaders in acreage of GM crops. Genetically engineered crops started to become popular in the United States after agrochemical company Monsanto introduced their ‘Roundup Ready’ soybeans in the mid-nineties. Today, soybeans remain the GM crop accounting for the largest proportion of GM crop acreage worldwide, followed by corn. One of the main reported benefits of adopting genetically engineered crops is increased crop yields.
GM crops in the U.S.
Almost all soybean crops in the U.S. have been genetically modified to be tolerant against herbicides. Some variants of corn and cotton also take up about 80 percent of the total acreage of crops in the U.S. Corn is the second most common GM crop in the U.S. as of 2019. Corn saw a sharp increase in acreage in 2018, but has since returned to 2017 values.
GM crops in Canada
Canada is also producing GM soybeans and corn, but is also producing canola, though the seeded area of GM canola has decreased by about one million hectares since 2017. Out of all seeded corn areas, only ten percent remain with non-genetically modified crops. GM soybeans have a smaller percentage of seeded areas, but are still the majority of all soybeans crops in Canada.
Consumer attitudes and understanding
Many consumers have strong opinions against the production and consumption of genetically modified foods. A survey released in 2019 showed that in many European countries, more than half of consumers would never eat genetically modified foods. Another survey in the U.S. revealed that many Americans are concerned about the safety of genetically modified food. Consumers are also concerned about possible negative environmental outcomes of genetically modified food production.
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