5 Things to Know about the State of GMOs

Genetically modified organisms are, in a word, contentious. Some see the act of altering a plant's genetics to generate heartier, more productive crops as a necessity to keep up with the world's growing food demands. Others consider it playing God...

May 5, 2014 | Source: The Wall Street Journal | by Rani Molla

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They’ve grown tremendously

When genetically modified crops were introduced in 1996, farmers planted them across 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres). Today they cover 175 million hectares, according to International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, a nonprofit group that promotes biotechnology in agriculture and is funded partly by biotech seed makers.

Despite the increase in genetically modified crops in developing nations, ETC Group, a Canadian organization opposed to GMOs, estimates that 80%-90% of the seed planted by farmers in the global South comes from the ‘informal sector,’ which includes farm-saved seeds, sharing seeds with neighboring farms and seed sales in local markets and seed fairs.


  Four plants make up most of the world’s GMO crops

Soy, corn, cotton and canola together make up 99% of the world’s genetically modified crop acreage. According to ISAAA, farmers mostly look for GMOs that are insect resistant, disease resistant and herbicide tolerant. Increasingly, they’re also looking for crops that can withstand climate change.


5 countries lead the world in genetically modified crop production

While some places, including the European Union and China, are becoming increasingly restrictive of genetically modified imports, others are embracing GMOs. In 2013, 27 countries grew genetically modified crops, according to ISAAA, with nearly 90% of those crops concentrated in five countries.