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USDA Reports Environmental Risks from GMO Crops

Feb 28, 2014 06:35 AM EST | By John Nassivera
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture released on Feb. 20 a new report about the potential risks posed to the environment by genetically engineering crops. Genetically modified organism seeds have been used by farms in the U.S. for 15 years.(Photo : Humphrey King)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released on Feb. 20 a new report about the potential risks posed to the environment by genetically engineering crops.

Genetically modified organism seeds have been used by farms in the U.S. for 15 years, according to RT. However, research from the report shows concern Americans have over having laboratory-created products in most of America's corn and soybean crops.

GMO crops are facing opposition from several activists and groups, according to GMANetwork. Consumer groups seek mandatory labels of foods made with GMOs, while environmentalists are stating their concerns about weed and insect resistance put in crops and the chemicals used in them. Scientific studies have reported the chemicals used on the crops are connected with illness and disease.

The USDA stated GMO crops were planted on almost 169 million acres of land in the U.S. last year, RT reported.

"As of September 2013, about 7,800 releases were approved for GE corn, more than 2,200 for GE soybeans, more than 1,100 GE cotton and about 900for GE potatoes," the USDA said.

The report also states that about 93 percent of the soybean crops planted involved GMO, herbicide-tolerant (HT) variants, according to RT. The report added that HT corn and HT cotton made up almost 85 and 82 percent of total acreage, respectively.

"HT crops are able to tolerate certain highly effective herbicides, such as glyphosate, allowing adopters of these varieties to control pervasive weeds more effectively", the report said.

The report stated that while use of insecticide in crops has decreased, the use of herbicide is increasing, GMANetwork reported. Use of herbicide on GMO crops grew from about 1.5 pounds per planted acre in 2001 to over 2.0 pounds per planted acre in 2010.

Michael Livingston, a government agricultural economist and one of the authors of the report, stated the purpose of the report's release, according to GMANetwork.

"We are not characterizing them (GMO crops) as bad or good," Livingston said. "We are just providing information."

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