research is needed. A full sustainability assessment of GE crops remains an ongoing task because of information gaps on certain environmental, economic, and social impacts.
Genetic-engineering technology continues to stir controversy around scientific issues and ideological viewpoints. This report addresses just the scientific questions and adopts an “evidentiary” standard of using peer-reviewed literature to form conclusions and recommendations. GE-trait developments may or may not turn out to be a cost-effective approach to addressing challenges confronting agriculture, but a review of their impact and an exploration of what is possible are necessary to evaluate their relative efficacy. Therefore, the report details the challenges and opportunities for future GE crops and offers recommendations on how crop-management practices and future research and development efforts can help to realize the full potential offered by genetic engineering.
The order of findings in this summary reflects the structure of the report and does not connote any conclusions on the part of the committee regarding the relative strength or importance of the findings. In general, the committee finds that genetic-engineering technology has produced substantial net environmental and economic benefits to U.S. farmers compared with non-GE crops in conventional agriculture. However, the benefits have not been universal; some may decline over time; and the potential benefits and risks associated with the future development of the technology are likely to become more numerous as it is applied to a greater variety of crops. The social effects of agricultural biotechnology have largely been unexplored, in part because of an absence of support for research on them.
Generally, GE crops have had fewer adverse effects on the environment than non-GE crops produced conventionally. The use of pesticides with toxicity to nontarget organisms or with greater persistence in soil and waterways has typically been lower in GE fields than in non-GE, nonorganic fields. However, farmer practices may be reducing the utility of some GE traits as pest-management tools and increasing the likelihood of a return to more environmentally damaging practices.
Finding 1. When adopting GE herbicide-resistant (HR) crops, farmers mainly substituted the herbicide glyphosate for more toxic herbicides.