Biotech Updates

Harvesting Data from Genetically Engineered Crops

May 2, 2008

Biotech crops have been planted in large scale in the United States since 1996 and plantings have increased to 57.7 million hectares in the U.S. and 114.3 million hectares globally.  However, a systematic monitoring and mapping system is necessary to be able to discern the relative costs and benefits that accrued from the widespread planting of biotech crops. A paper published in the journal Science by noted experts in selected U.S. universities proposes strategies in data collection and mapping of the biotech crops planted in the U.S.

The proposed strategy to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS)  includes: 1. Map biotech plantings in countries, states, or counties according to the appropriate scale to permit analyses that would indicate trade-offs in using biotechnology and at the same time, preserve privacy;  2. Make available to environmental scientists records regarding the specific transgenic varieties planted, whether single, stacked, etc. per area to discern whether a particular transgenic variety and its traits are associated with various environmental and biotic patterns; and 3.  Link maps of agricultural practices with existing monitoring of birds, fish, and amphibians to examine associations between agricultural practices and trends in species abundances across both space and time. 

The authors believe that this approach will help to identify which agricultural practices maximize benefits to farmers and society while minimizing environmental risks.

See article details at