Farmers in the United States have been using genetically engineered organisms or GMO crops since 1996. These plants are modified so that they can resist pest and tolerate harmful pesticides. Genetically modified seed companies were so successful that 90% of the corn, cotton, soybean, sugar beets and canola are GMO crops. While crops like squash, papaya, and alfalfa are now being cultivated using genetically engineered (GE) varieties. If you go to the countryside and admire acres of farmlands, you might just be surprised how many farms are planting GMO crops.
Acres of Lands Planted with GMO and Non-GMO Crops
According to USDA, there are about 182 million (of the 380 million) acres of agricultural land in the United States that have been planted with GMO crops of which 90% is planted with soybeans and corn while the rest with beets and cotton. Only 0.6% and 0.3% of said agricultural land were planted with genetically engineered varieties of vegetables and fruits.
On the other hand, there are only 5.4 million acres of farmlands that are certified organic farming systems. Only half of the organic system is used as a cropland because the rest is used for pasture. Out of it, only 0.3% is planted with non-GM corn and 0.2% with soybeans. A large percentage of the cropland is planted with organic carrots, lettuce, squash and other vegetables.
Market Value of Non-GMO Crops
The USDA reported that organic corn and soy fetched higher prices than its GMO counterparts. While conventional farming resulted in more production, the consumers have shifted to patronizing organic products. In fact, most GE crops are now used to create processed foods and other food ingredients like breakfast cereals, corn chips, corn syrup, corn oil, soybean oil, and canola oil.
The non-GMO crops, on the other hand, continue to expand and co-exist with conventional crops as more and more people are looking for organically-grown foods and produce. This is the reason why many organic retailers are looking for additional assurance when it comes to labeling and differentiating their organic foods from the GMO crops. This is also to ensure that they get price premiums associated with organic cultivation.
Problems with GMO and Non-GMO Co-Existence
While it can be inferred that both GMO and organic crops can co-exist, there are still some problems related to its co-existence. The most common problem is how to maintain the integrity of the non-GM crops. Accidental pollination or co-mingling of the two types of plants is bound to happen which can result in a price drop of the premium organic food.
As a matter of fact, organic farmers from Nebraska, Oklahoma and Illinois have reported economic losses due to co-mingling of pollen. Unfortunately, this phenomenon has resulted in lower yields due to incompatibility. There are solutions implemented by the local organic farmers. Practices such as the use of buffer strips can help protect the non-GM crops. Moreover, planting organic corn two to four weeks later than the conventional GMO crops can also prevent cross pollination.
Inspired by usda.gov