US GMO crop cultivation accelerates as farmers gain access to more biotech seeds

Spraying young cotton plants in a field

[Editor’s note: GMO crops were widely adopted by US farmers after their initial approval in 1996. According to a new USDA report, the trend accelerated as growers gained access to biotech seeds with new traits.]

Herbicide tolerant (HT) crops, which tolerate potent herbicides provide farmers with a broad variety of options for effective weed control. HT crops have been adopted in the U.S. since 1996. HT soybeans rose from 17% in 1997 to 68% in 2001, before plateauing at 94% in 2014. HT cotton area expanded from approximately 10% in 1997 to 56% in 2001, and reached a high of 95% in 2019. HT corn adoption rates increased following the turn of the century. Currently, approximately 90 percent of the domestic corn area in the U.S. is produced with HT seeds.

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Credit: USDA

Insect resistant crops that contain genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and produce insecticidal proteins have been available for corn and cotton since 1996. The area planted to Bt corn increased from 8% in 1997 to 19% in 2000, before climbing to 83% in 2019. Bt cotton area also expanded, from 15% of U.S. cotton planted area in 1997 to 37% in 2001. Currently, 92% percent of U.S. cotton is planted with genetically engineered, insect-resistant seeds.

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