Genetic engineering of animals and plants is one of the biggest environmental challenges of the 21st century, as you’ll see from these GMO statistics

While the GMO pros and cons debate rages worldwide, we bring you the most important GMOs data to help you make an informed decision on the good and bad sides of GMOs and nonGMO foods.

What Are the Top 10 Facts About GMO Foods

  • There are 10 commercialized types of GMO crops in the US.
  • More than 60 countries worldwide have either banned or restricted the use and production of GMOs.
  • The US planted 75 million hectares of biotech crops in 2018.
  • Close to 90% of field corn in the US is genetically modified.
  • It’s estimated that 77% of papaya grown in Hawaii is bioengineered.
  • About 94% of soybean is genetically modified.
  • 40% of dairy products in the US contain rBGH.
  • The GMO statistics from 2019 reported that the total acreage of GM crops worldwide was 191.7 million hectares.
  • Since GM crops were introduced in 1996, pesticides have increased by 404 million pounds.
  • Hybridization in areas with both genetically modified and wild plants can reach 33%.

More than 15 years after their commercial release, GMOs are still a debated topic regarding their safety.

The biotech industry claims that GMO foods will feed us all. In contrast, scientists are concerned about the impact GMOs have on people’s health, animals, and the environment in general.

Read on if you want to discover more about the GMO environmental impact and the genetics behind GM food.

How Are GMOs Made?

The most used GMO definition describes genetic modification (engineering) as changing the DNA of a plant or animal.

Bioengineers insert genes from other plants or animals to create new food species consistent in flavor and resistant to insecticides and pesticides.

1. There are 10 commercialized types of GMO crops in the US.

(GMO Answers)

GMO crops for commercial use in the US were approved in 1996, and their production increased rapidly.

The most common GMO examples include:

  • Squash
  • Soybean
  • Corn
  • Cotton
  • Papaya
  • Canola
  • Alfalfa
  • sugar beets
  • Potato, and
  • Apples.

These GM foods are often used as processed ingredients in everyday foods.

2. Tomato was the first bioengineered food.

(ScienceDirect)

This occurred in 1994. The Flavr Savr tomato was engineered with an antisense gene that delays ripening to prolong shelf life.

Moreover, gene editing also altered the tomato bulb composition, as the latest facts about genetically modified food reveal.

3. Roughly 75% of processed foods contain GMOs.

(Center for Food Safety)

Foods that are nonGMO, meaning they were not bioengineered, make up only a tiny share of what we eat, which is a great cause for concern.

Anything from sodas to soups, crackers to condiments, just about any type of food you can imagine probably has some genetically engineered ingredients.

4. Each plant cell contains approximately 30,000 genes.

(Royal Society)

All forms of animal and plant life contain genes, and these are but natural parts of them.

Yet, most of that DNA is either destroyed or degraded while cooking. The rest is digested into constituents that make up our proteins and genes.

As GMO facts state, genetic engineering adds approximately 1–10 extra foreign genes.

5. As of 2020, GMO labeling is obligatory for all produce containing more than 5% of bioengineered material.

(Live Science)

GMO labeling has spurred many debates. The FDA issued a ruling in 2015 that required GMO labeling only if there was a material difference. One such material difference is the different nutritional profile between a GMO product and its non-GMO equivalent.

Luckily, one of the positive GMO facts is that this labeling rule has since changed, allowing end consumers to find out when they’re buying a GMO product. 

6. Currently, 64 countries require GMO labeling.

(Organic Authority)

This includes 28 countries from the EU, Japan, China, Australia, Brazil, and Russia.

Like Campbell Soup, some companies voluntarily label their products, even in countries that don’t require it.

7. Over 60 countries worldwide either ban or restrict the use and production of GMOs, according to recent GMO safety facts.

(Live Science)

Most developed countries believe that GMOs aren’t safe due to the lack of credible independent long-term feeding studies. Some of these include the EU, Australia, and Japan.

Why?

Well, these plants are primarily modified to make them resistant to certain toxic chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides).

The plants then feed on these chemicals and use them while growing, contaminating the food for insects such as bees and animals and humans.

GMO Crop Yield Statistics

Genetic engineering is primarily used in agriculture.

Plants are engineered to become more resistant to chemicals, viruses, pests, droughts, and browning.

Bioengineering is also used to increase the yield of crops (the number of grains, pods, fruit, or the plant’s size).

8. Over 18 million farmers worldwide choose to grow GM plants.

(GMO Answers)

Besides the record number of biotech farmers, the size of the land used for GM farming has also skyrocketed.

As GMOs statistics reveal, the worldwide hectarage of GM crops has increased 100-fold. It grew from 1.7 million hectares in 1996, when GM foods production started, to over 175 million hectares in 2013.

These substantial figures have made biotech crops the quickest adopted crop technology in recent history.

9. 28 countries grow GM crops on 473.7 million acres.

(ISAAA.org)

The biggest producers are the US, Brazil, Argentina, India, and Canada. If we look at the percentage of GMO crops in the US, we see that it leads by a mile, contributing a whopping 40%.

In Europe, GMOs are primarily grown in Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Slovakia.

On the other hand, in Africa, GMOs are predominantly grown in South Africa, Burkina Faso, and Sudan.

10. The US planted 75 million hectares of biotech crops in 2018 alone.

(ISAAA.org)

A total of 26 countries planted biotech crops during the same year. The US covered approximately 39 percent of GMO crops in the world in 2018.

Also, 18 countries grew more than 50,000 hectares of biotech crops, rightfully earning the status of biotech mega-countries.

11. Studies claim that GM crops provide a 6–25% increase in crop yield.

(Alliance for Science)

Scientists claim that GM crops can increase crop yield by up to 25% and decrease mycotoxin levels by one-third, depending on the country and the soil.

Mycotoxins are responsible for the majority of economic losses and health issues.

12. GMO statistics from 2019 reported that the total size of GM crops worldwide was 190.4 million hectares.

(Statista)

The acreage of GM crops has been increasing rapidly since 2003, reaching its peak in 2018.

There were 67.7 million hectares of biotech crops in 2003, and just three years later, that number crossed the 100-million threshold.

13. The global value of biotech crops reached $186.1 billion during the 1996–2016 period.

(ISAAA.org)

The report on GMO statistics from 2018 revealed enormous economic gains from biotech crops. As a biotech crop leader, the US earned the most — $80.3 billion.

Chart by Visualizer

Nevertheless, Argentina, India, Brazil, and China also had good economic outcomes. They earned $23.7 billion, $21.1 billion, $19.8 billion, and $19.6 billion, respectively, for their GM crops shares.

What’s more, GM crops’ global market value in 2017 was estimated at $17.2 billion.

Genetically Modified Food Statistics

The overall percentage of GM crops has grown at least 600% since 1994.

Some biotech crops, like corn, have increased by a mind-boggling 1,000% during the same period. Also, animals are given hormone injections and fed GMO food.

14. Close to 90% of field corn in the US is genetically modified.

(USDA ERS)

Corn (maize) has been modified to survive glyphosate herbicide (sold as Roundup) that destroys competing weeds.

Recent GMO corn facts show that bioengineers have also modified corn with Bacillus thuringiensis. It is a bacteria that is toxic to corn-eating caterpillars, intending to help farmers reduce the use of pesticides.

15. It’s estimated that 77% of papaya grown in Hawaii is, in fact, bioengineered.

(The Non-GMO Project)

Papaya was the first-ever fruit bioengineered for commercial production. Today, there are two GM varieties developed in Hawaii — SunUp (or Sunrise) and Rainbow.

According to the latest papaya GMO facts, the fruit was modified to resist the papaya ringspot virus. In addition, farmers from Hawaii harvested over 23 million pounds of the fruit back in 2014.

16. About 94% of soybean is genetically modified.

(FDA, The Non-GMO Project)

Soybean (or soya bean) is the number one bioengineered plant globally. Some varieties were explicitly modified to produce more oil and 3 times more oleic acid.

Nevertheless, soy GMO facts reveal that even though most of the soy produced in the US is GM, soy milk is actually GMO-free.

17. More than 90% of canola crops grown in the US are genetically modified.

(Healthline)

This doesn’t mean that all the canola oil is GMO. Still, the great majority of canola crops are, in fact, GM to improve the quality of the oil and increase the plant’s resistance to herbicides.

18. 36% of genetically modified corn in the US is used as animal feed.

(One Green Planet)

Unfortunately, the use of antibiotics is a common practice in factory farming

Yet, that’s not all.

The animals are also fed genetically modified food. According to new GMO meat facts, corn makes up most crops given to livestock, comprising approximately 95% of animal feed.

Moreover, genetically modified soy plays a big part in animal agriculture. 98% of GM soy grown in the US is used as animal feed.

Keeping in mind that 99% of animals in America are raised for food and fed with GM produce, we can say with certainty that almost all the meat in the US is GMO.

The Environment and GMO Statistics

The relationship between GMOs and the environment is complicated.

While some GM crops help decrease the use of pesticides, like cotton, that’s engineered to be pest-resistant, others pose significant dangers to the environment.

19. Since GM crops were introduced in 1996, pesticides have increased by 404 million pounds.

(Greenpeace USA)

The world’s top producer of GMO seeds, Monsanto, is also selling the most popular weedkiller — Roundup.

GMO statistics reveal that since the introduction of bioengineering, the use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has risen by 15%.

Moreover, glyphosate — the active ingredient of this herbicide — has been classified by the WHO as a probable carcinogen.

20. Depending on the climate, glyphosate stays in the soil for up to 6 months.

(OSU)

This chemical binds tightly to the soil and is broken down by bacteria in it.

According to the latest GMO facts, pure glyphosate is not extremely toxic to wildlife and fish. Still, it can be harmful in combination with other chemicals.

Nonetheless, it kills plants, and this land clearing is affecting the habitats of millions of animals.

21. Hybridization in areas with both GM and wild plants can reach 33%.

(European Commission)

The EC has conducted a study on GM sunflowers, claiming they would be the most profitable plant for farmers.

However, their proGMO facts also reveal that insect pollination can spread the sunflower seeds more than 1 km from GMO fields. Thus contaminating wild plants and negatively affecting biodiversity in the process.

22. 16 weed species in the US have become resistant to pesticides.

(NCBI)

Another downside of GMOs is weed resistance. Worldwide, 37 weed species have become resistant to glyphosate. This resistance to herbicides is leading to crop destruction, as well as the increased use of chemicals.

FAQ

23. What percent of our food is genetically modified?

A considerable percentage of today’s most commonly grown crops are GM. Close to 90% of corn, 90% of cotton, 94% of soybeans, and 95% of sugar beets.

24. What is the risk of GMOs?

GMOs can cause allergic reactions, resistance to antibiotics, eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a flu-like neurological condition, and many other conditions.

25. What GMO ingredients should you avoid?

Some of the GMO ingredients you should avoid include aspartame, a chemical that causes neurotoxicity.

Other ingredients include high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, non-organic and synthetic vitamins since many contain aspartame, vegetable, and canola oils.

26. What crops in the US are GMO?

In total, 10 crops in the US are GMO, with more than 100 varieties. They include squash, soybean, corn, cotton, papaya, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, potato, and apples.

27. What are the environmental effects of GMOs?

GMOs aren’t dangerous to the environment per se, but they do influence it indirectly. The use of pesticides has increased since the introduction of GMOs. Plants and soil absorb these toxins and further endanger the health of animals, people, and the environment as a whole.

28. What are the 5 most common GMO crops?

The most common GMO crops are alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, and papaya.

29. How do farmers benefit from GMOs?

Farmers who grow GMOs have lower production costs, fewer pest problems, and better yields.

30. What are the benefits of GMOs?

There are some obvious benefits of using GMOs, like increasing agriculture productivity and lowering production costs, leading to lower food prices and fewer pests.

Conclusion

It’s clear that we live in a world where our interactions with nature have not just a significant impact on the environment but the planet itself.

This list of GMO statistics will help you stay informed about the everyday produce we consume and the ways modern agriculture affects the environment.

After all, we don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

Sources

2 comments
  1. Hi,
    It says: “The GMO statistics from 2019 reported that the total acreage of GM crops worldwide was 191.7 million hectares.” How much is that in % of the total acreage of crops worldwide from 2019 (or a more recent year)? It would be valuable to know in % how much of the total crop in the world is GMO.

    1. Hello Maria, unfortunately, it is very difficult to say since it’s hard to determine the total worldwide acreage of crops. We did find breakdown information on a percent per different types of harvest in statista from 2019, which may be of some help. I will definitely assign someone on the team to look into it and if they find something more informational I will make sure we add it to our statistics.

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