- WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
farmers will plant more biotech crops this year, with nearly three-fourths
of all soybeans and one-third of corn grown from gene-spliced seeds, the
U.S. Agriculture Department said on Thursday.
- The new USDA estimates showed growers continuing to
the new bio-crops which are designed to trim chemical costs and boost
- The estimates are based on data submitted by U.S. farmers
as they purchase seed and prepare for spring planting. The department will
fine-tune its forecast for bio-crops in June when actual plantings have
- Despite the increase in 2002 plantings of gene-altered
soybeans, corn and cotton, some green groups contend that consumer concerns
about the safety of bio-foods have slowed the introduction of new crops
such as potatoes and rice.
- "After more than five years of major marketing of
biotech varieties, just two crops still account for almost all of the
altered food sold in U.S. supermarkets," said Charles Margulis of
- Critics have urged the government to impose stricter
controls and tests to ensure long-term safety for humans and animals. In
February, a National Academies of Science report urged the USDA to tighten
its reviews of potential environmental effects of new biotech crops before
approving them for commercial use.
- The Biotechnology Industry Organization, a pro-biotech
group, said the new USDA data showed farmers are convinced of the value
of gene-enhanced crops.
- "Clearly the benefits of these improved seed
help farmers to strengthen crops by making them more resistant to disease,
increase crop yields and reduce the use of pesticides," the industry
group said in a statement.
- The USDA said the biggest 2002 jump in engineered crops
will come in cornfields, where farmers plan to boost biotech varieties
to 32 percent of the 79 million acres of corn to be grown in the United
States this year. Last year, farmers planted 26 percent of their cornfields
with gene-enhanced varieties, the USDA said.
- Most will be so-called Bt corn, which is engineered to
produce a natural insecticide that repels pests that like to feed on young
- All but two of the 11 major corn-growing states --
and Ohio -- will increase bio-corn plantings, the USDA said.
- Biotech soybeans will rise to 74 percent of the entire
U.S. soybean crop grown on nearly 73 million acres this year, up from 68
percent last year, according to the USDA data.
- Virtually all of the bio-soybeans are Roundup Ready
which enable farmers to spray their soybean fields with a single chemical
to kill a variety of weeds without affecting the soy plant.
- All 14 major states which grow soybeans will have
in biotech plantings in 2002, the USDA said.
- The new U.S. soybean estimate comes amid concerns from
China, a major world buyer, about biotech soybeans. On Thursday, Beijing
clarified new rules on imports of biotech foods, which it had announced
previously, and said U.S. exporters did not have to obtain as many safety
permits as originally thought.
- Gene-altered cotton planted in 2002 showed a smaller
increase, rising to 71 percent of the entire 14.5 million acres of U.S.
upland cotton crop this year, the USDA said. Last year, bio-cotton
for 69 percent of total U.S. plantings.
- Farmers in Louisiana and North Carolina, however, said
they would slightly trim their bio-cotton plantings, according to the USDA
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