New Report on GE Crops Released by the National Academies of Sciences

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The National Academies of Sciences has released a comprehensive report on genetically engineered (GE) crops titled Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects. This report evaluates scientific research related to the safety and possible environmental, economic, and social impacts of GE crops.

The report points out several areas where GE crops pose risks to the environment and organic farming. By addressing these risks, it is clear that additional research in particular areas can help organic and GE crops to coexist.  

One of the primary findings in the report is that weed resistance to glyphosate is a major agronomic problem. The extensive planting of glyphosate resistant crops (RoundUp Ready corn for example) has resulted in increased herbicide resistant weeds and the increased use of certain herbicides. In addition to the serious problem of herbicide resistant weeds, the study found that genetically engineered crops create economic risks for organic farmers. These risks stem from the financial consequences of having one’s crop rejected from a buyer should it become inadvertently contaminated from pollen from a neighboring GE crop.

The OFRF 2015 National Survey of Organic Farmers found that contamination from GE crops was a major concern for many organic farmers. In the survey, hundreds of organic farmers, especially farmers in the Midwestern U.S., relayed how they have already been negatively impacted through GE contamination from pollen drift and the need to shift their planting schedules to avoid pollen drift.  The NAS report highlights this issue, and goes into detail on the social and economic benefits of avoiding the presence of low levels of GE traits in organic crops. Research on GE avoidance practices that are most effective in the US and other countries is a major need for future organic farming research in order to help organic farmers avoid impacts from GE crops.

Read the NAS report here.

By Joanna Ory, Research Program Associate, OFRF