A new report coming from the National Research Council provides a comprehensive assessment of how genetically modified crops may be affecting all US farmers. The report suggests that although GM crops provide a variety of benefits for the farmers, it might still require proper management in order to remain effective over time.
Many US farmers growing genetically engineered crops enjoy such benefits like lower production costs, reduced use of pesticides due to fewer pest problems as well as better yields. But the report also says that certain GE crops known to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate may develop more weed problems as the weeds develop resistance to the said compound. Glyphosate is a main component in Roundup and other commercial herbicides. In the process, farmers using GE crops could experience a decrease in the level of benefits they enjoy from using them unless proven weed and insect management practices are also being maintained.
The use of GM crops in the US was first introduced in 1996 and presently constitute around 80 percent of corn, cotton and soybeans being grown in the country. These GE crops are designed to be resistant to glyphosate. Aside from that GM corn and cotton are also engineered to produce Bacillus thurigiensis (Bt), a bacterium that is deadly to pests when ingested.
But in order for the GE crops to remain effective, US farmers may need to adopt better management practices. This is to ensure that the environmental benefits they enjoy using GM crops may continue. This includes not relying exclusively on glyphosate for weed control. To date, at least nine weed species have evolved resistance to glyphosate due to repeated exposure to the said herbicide.
Source: National Academy of Sciences. "Genetically Engineered Crops Benefit Many Farmers, but the Technology Needs Proper Management to Remain Effective, Report Suggests." ScienceDaily 13 April 2010. 20 April 2010