Iowa Public Television


Biotechnology Hearing

posted on June 17, 2005

2005 marks the 10th anniversary of commercialized biotech crops. And while genetically modified organisms, or G-M-Os continue to increase their market share, they still are controversial in some circles.

Depending on whom you ask G-M-Os represent one of the greatest technological advances in the history of agriculture, or a pending ecological disaster.

Nevertheless, G-M-Os continue to be grown on more acres. In fact, Pioneer Hi-Bred International announced earlier this Spring that the one-billionth acre of biotech seed was planted somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere.

And while their use has been questioned in other parts of the world, U.S. producers have adopted the technology at a rapid pace.

Biotechnology Hearing The United States is the world leader in the production of genetically modified agriculture crops. And, in some places, it's becoming difficult to find a field where a farmer hasn't planted GMO varieties. In 2004, U.S. farmers planted 85 percent of soybeans, 76 percent of cotton and 45 percent of corn with seeds improved through biotechnology. But, the U.S. is not alone. Countries like China, Argentina and Brazil are expected to have a significant impact on the adoption of biotech crops around the world.

Jim Greenwood, Biotechnology Industry Organization: "For the first time, biotech crop acreage in developing countries grew faster than in developed countries, further increasing the important economic, health and societal benefits realized by these small farmers."


While global acceptance for biotechnology is growing, some countries remain skeptical. The U.S. has had several exchanges with the European Union regarding the acceptance of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

For the most part, Europeans regard biotechnology with suspicion. Many perceive it to be unnatural to manipulate the genetic code of crops. And, opponents fear possible negative effects on their health and the environment.

Ron Heck, Perry, Iowa: "The international acceptance of products derived through biotech enhancement, once they have been approved as safe for humans, animals and the environment according to internationally accepted, scientific principles must be a high priority of U.S. government policy."

A case before the World Trade Organization challenges the European Union's moratorium on new biotech commodities. Nevertheless, GMO proponents claim Europe is moving forward in biotech crops.

Jim Greenwood, Biotechnology Industry Organization: "European Union countries were host to 1,849 field trials between 1991 and August 2004."

Biotech proponents claim the GMOs enable farmers to reduce input costs and improve yields. They also say the technology reduces soil erosion and limits the use of fossil fuels. And with global population projected to reach nine billion by 2050, experts claim biotechnology will play a pivotal role in strengthening food security, reducing hunger and improving nutrition.

Kenneth Quinn, President World Food Prize Foundation: "The additional food necessary to accomplish this task will be found in one of two ways. Either we will develop techniques which permit us to achieve increased yields on the land currently in production; or we will be forced to cut down significant parts of the remaining rainforests and animal habitats to make more land available to grow this additional food."

Tags: agriculture biotechnology crops genetic engineering hunger news poverty