However, a serious concern is a “de facto moratorium” on seed production and large-scale cultivation of GE crops in the open systems in Russia, which has existed since 2004. In 2002, the Ministry of Industry and Science gave preliminary approval to the registration of two GE potato varieties resistant to the Colorado potato beetle (Superior NewLeaf and Russet Burbank NewLeaf of the Monsanto company), but the registration process was discontinued. As a result, not one square meter of land in Russia is used for growing GE crops, a condition that continues lower productivity, lower value of the crops, more use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers (which sometimes pose problems to the health of humans and animals), and more energy used on crops, with a concomitant increase in the production of greenhouse gases.
AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY IN THE UNITED STATES
In order for a GE crop to be approved for commercial use in the United States, it must pass through the regulatory review process to ensure it does not have unforeseen adverse effects on food safety or the environment. Soybean, corn, and cotton have been the most successful GE crops commercially, and about one-half of U.S. agricultural fields were planted with a GE variety of one of these crops in 2010. GE varieties of canola, sugar beet, papaya, squash, sweet corn, potato, and alfalfa have also been commercialized; however, GE potato and tomato are no longer sold.
Intellectual property law in the United States grants seed innovators exclusive rights to multiply and market new varieties, including those developed with GE technology. These proprietary rights give companies control over the seeds even after they have been purchased by farmers. Research, development, and commercialization is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, so it is not surprising that the private sector has focused its efforts on soybean, corn, and cotton, which are likely to generate returns on investment because of their dominance in U.S. agriculture. Conversely, public research has addressed issues in much smaller markets. For example, commercialization of GE papaya, which in the United States is only grown in Hawaii, was undertaken by the public sector to prevent a virus from devastating papaya production.
GE technology has not been introduced into a wider array of crops, because few other crops are planted on so many acres. Introducing GE traits into less widely grown crops increases the regulatory costs as a percentage of the costs invested in research and development. Also, the environmental risk associated with gene flow from GE plants to non-GE plants is lower for corn, soybean, and cotton than for most other crops.
Resistance by consumers and growers has been a barrier to further commercialization of the technology. Consumers appear to be more willing to accept GE products that are further removed from direct human consumption. Corn and soybean are used primarily for animal feed and are often highly processed when