GM Soybean Cropping in the USA – A Review

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GM technology is now seen as a cropping system that is here to stay (125 million hectares were planted with GM seed in 25 countries around the world in 2008) and it seems inevitable that it will eventually be integrated into European agricultural systems. There was a recognition of the potential benefits that GM crops might bring. However, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland were still strongly opposed to the technology (and more recently both France and Germany have also adopted a harder anti-GM attitude). Given the political nature of EU decision making, its uptake is unlikely to be speedy. In 2008, there were 28 million hectares of GM soybean grown in the USA (ISAAA, 2008). The harvest was 70.4 million tonnes with a market value of $26.89 billion (soybean was trading at $382 per tonne on world markets). More than half of the US production was consumed on the domestic market, with China, Mexico, Japan and the EU being major export markets. Following the introduction of GM soybean in 1996, it now accounts for more than 95% of the US harvest. This reflects the ease of use to the American farmer. Growing herbicide-tolerant soybeans in a no-till management system (where ploughing is eliminated and seed is planted directly into the soil surface debris) reduced crop inputs, reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 88%, reduced energy use and resulted in an increase in soil organic matter. In the decade 1996 to 2006, there was a significant reduction in the use of active pesticide ingredients on the soybean crop (down by 27,000 tonnes per year).


Document Type: Review Article


Publication date: June 1, 2009

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