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Comparative Environmental Impacts
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by CAST 08 the future of Food & Biotech

Comparative Environmental Impacts of Biotechnology-derived and Traditional Soybean, Corn, and Cotton Crops

Executive Summary
June 2002

Authors: Janet Carpenter, Allan Felsot, Timothy Goode, Michael Hammig, David Onstad, and Sujatha Sankula

A comprehensive review of the scientific literature supports the conclusion that overall the currently commercialized biotechnology-derived soybean, corn, and cotton crops yield environmental benefits. Furthermore, a critical analysis of the literature supports the idea that biotechnology-derived soybean, corn, and cotton pose no environmental concerns unique to or different from those historically associated with conventionally developed crop varieties.

Soybean, corn, and cotton farmers in developed and developing nations have rapidly adopted biotechnology- derived commodity crops during the six years of their commercial availability. In 2001, farmers planted biotechnology-derived seed on 46% of global soy-bean acres, 7% of global corn acres, and 20% of global cotton acres. To date, nearly all of the planted biotechnology-derived crops have introduced tolerance to selected herbicides for weed control or have introduced protection against pest insects. Of the 129.9 million acres (52.6 million hectares) of biotechnology- derived crops planted in 2001, seventy-seven percent were tolerant of specific herbicides (herbicide tolerant), fifteen percent were resistant to selected insect damage (insect resistant), and eight percent were both herbicide tolerant and insect resistant.

The peer-reviewed literature, regulatory assessments, nongovernmental organizations and the popular media have repeatedly raised questions about the environmental safety of biotechnology-derived crops. To answer these questions relative to soybean, corn, and cotton, the scientific literature was reviewed and analyzed to evaluate the environmental impacts of commercially available biotechnology-derived crops in relation to the current agricultural practices for crop and pest management in conventionally bred crops. Nine potential environmental impacts were identified as follows:

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