of the biggest benefits promised by GE crops are environmental ones.
Roundup Ready soybeans are a prime example. Roundup Ready Soybeans
are genetically engineered to withstand a specific type of herbicide
spray. The herbicide, glyphosate, is designed to work with the GE
soybeans. It is less toxic than the traditional mix of chemicals
used to kill weeds. Farmers spray the entire field with the herbicide.
It kills every plant and weed except the soybeans, which are resistant
to glyphosate. According to the USDA, traditional chemical herbicides
are three times more toxic than glyphosate, and they persist in
the environment for up to twice as long. By switching to the combination
of GE soybeans and glyphosate, farmers are using less toxic herbicides,
and helping the environment.
agrees with that scenario. Critics of GE soybeans say other risks
aren't worth the supposed environmental benefits. They worry the
herbicide-resistance trait in the beans may transfer to weeds themselves.
The weeds would then be resistant to the herbicides too. Stronger,
different, or more herbicides would have to be used, cancelling
out the intended environmental benefit of the GE soybeans. Critics
also say that while glyphosate isn't as toxic as the other herbicides,
it's still toxic and can't be classified as harmless to the environment.
Read what the opposition to Roundup Ready crops has to say.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Adoption of Bioengineered
Crops." (Online.) September 2002.
y-axis: percentage of Roundup Ready soybeans
USDA numbers - adoption of roundup ready soybeans
first available in 1996, 17% of acreage in '97, 56% in '99, 68%