A 43-page study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reveals that since the inception of genetically modified (GM or GMO) crops, no significant increases in crop yields can be attributed to them. This is directly contrary to what Monsanto and other seed-makers have often pointed out in their own research and the UCS study answers why that is. The study, titled Failure to Yield, is available online, free of charge1.
While crop yields overall have increased substantially, including in corn and soybean crops–both of which have a significant percentage of share in GMO–these increases have not been directly related to the use of genetic modifications. Instead, they are due to several changes in farming practices, agriculture in general, and the overall trend towards higher yields in all of food production.
The study, led by Doug Gurian-Sherman, a lead scientist in UCS Food and Environment Program, is a compilation of published, peer-reviewed, and scientifically-accepted studies done since the early 1990s. These studies looked at crop production, various attributes of different crops, how environment and other factors affected yields, and so forth. According to UCS, overall these studies have shown that the yield increases often attributed to genetic modifications are often not because of the GMs at all, but due to other factors.
The UCS study shows that genetically engineered corn varieties have only increased crop yields marginally while engineered soybean varieties haven’t increased yields at all.
In fact, says UCS, the substantial increases in crop yields over the past decade or so have largely been due to traditional breeding and improvements in agricultural practices.
The only gains apparent in the knowledge gained by GM practices are in the understanding of the plants’ genomes themselves. Many breeding practices could benefit, says the study, by utilizing the knowledge gained about plant genomes and how these genes can be marked and targeted in breeding practices.
In other words, traditional plant breeding could lead to better hybrid varieties with less worrisome outcomes as compared to direct genetic modification (gene splicing and manipulation) by using the knowledge of plant DNA to breed, not engineer, better plants.
Further, states UCS, the needed increase in crop yields to keep up with human population requirements is in precisely the areas where genetically modified crops are generally unavailable due to cost constraints and largely primitive agricultural methods. In Africa, for instance, the food needs of the population would be better-served by providing education and resources for better agricultural practice than would be seen by introducing genetically modified, non-indigenous crops.
In fact, the study goes so far as to recommend that the U.S. Department of Agriculture remove funding from GMO studies and redirect it to other, more beneficial uses and programs.
Several other factors outside of the study have created more hot-button questions about how the proliferation of GM crops have affected us and our health.
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