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.
More than 15 years after their commercial release, GMOs are still topics for debates regarding their safety.
The biotech industry claims that GMO foods will feed us all, whereas scientists are concerned about the impact GMOs have on people’s health, animals, and the environment in general.
While the GMO pros and cons debate rages all across the world, we bring you the most significant data on GMOs that will help you make an informed decision on the good and bad sides of GMO and non–GMO foods.
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 have been introduced in 1996, the use of pesticides has increased by 404 million pounds.
- Hybridization in areas with both genetically modified and wild plants can reach 33%.
If you want to discover more about the GMO environmental impact and the genetics behind GM food, read on.
How Are GMOs Made?
The most used GMO definition describes genetic modification (engineering) as the process of changing the DNA of a plant or animal.
Bioengineers insert genes from other plants or animals to create new food species consistent in flavor which are also resistant to insecticide and pesticide.
1. There are 10 commercialized types of GMO crops in the US.
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 common foods.
2. Tomato was the first bioengineered food.
This occurred in 1994, and it was the Flavr Savr tomato, which was engineered with an antisense gene that delays ripening, to prolong shelf life.
Moreover, gene editing was also used to alter 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 non–GMO, meaning they were not bioengineered, make up only a small 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.
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, and 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.
GMO labeling has spurred many debates.
The FDA issued a ruling in 2015 that required GMO labeling only if there was a material difference, such as a 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.
6. Currently, 64 countries require GMO labeling.
(Food & Water Watch)
This includes 28 countries from the EU, Japan, China, Australia, Brazil, and Russia.
Some companies, like Campbell Soup, 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.
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.
Well, these plants are primarily modified to make them resistant to certain toxic chemicals (namely, fertilizers and pesticides).
The plants then go on to feed on these chemicals and use them while growing, contaminating the food not just for insects such as bees, but for animals, and humans too.
GMO Crop Yield Statistics
Genetic engineering is mostly 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 the crops (the number of grains, pods, fruit, or the size of the plant).
8. Over 18 million farmers around the world choose to grow GM plants.
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 the production of GM foods 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.
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 mostly grown in Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Slovakia.
In Africa, on the other hand, GMOs are predominantly grown in South Africa, Burkina Faso, and Sudan.
10. The US planted 75 million hectares of biotech crops in 2018 alone.
A total of 26 countries planted biotech crops during the same year, and the US covered approximately 39 percent of GMO crops in the world in 2018.
In addition, there were 18 countries that 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, depending on the country and the soil, GM crops can increase the crop yield by up to 25% and decrease the mycotoxin levels by one-third.
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 191.7 million hectares.
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 time period.
The report on GMO statistics from 2018 revealed that there were enormous economic gains from biotech crops. The US, as a biotech crop leader, earned the most — $80.3 billion.
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 shares of GM crops.
What’s more, the global market value for GM crops 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.
During the same period, some biotech crops, like corn, have increased by a mind-boggling 1,000%. In addition, animals are also given hormone injections and fed GMO food.
14. Close to 90% of field corn in the US is genetically modified.
Corn (maize) has been modified to survive the application of glyphosate herbicide (sold as Roundup) that destroys competing weeds.
As recent GMO corn facts show, bioengineers have also modified corn with Bacillus thuringiensis. It is a bacteria that is toxic to corn-eating caterpillars, with the intention of helping 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, both 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.
(Mother Jones) (The Non-GMO Project)
Soybean (or soya bean) is the number one bioengineered plant in the world. Some varieties were specifically 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. 40% of dairy products in the US contain rBGH.
Animals raised for food suffer cruelty, and cows are one of the biggest victims. The recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is a hormone injected into cows to stimulate the production of milk.
According to recent GMO milk facts, brands that don’t use this growth hormone label their products as rBGH-free.
However, close to half of the dairy products in America contain this hormone, including ice cream and cheese products.
18. More than 90% of canola crops grown in the US are genetically modified.
This doesn’t mean that all the canola oil is GMO, but 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.
19. 36% of genetically modified corn in the US is used as animal feed.
(One Green Planet)
Yet, that’s not all.
The animals are also fed genetically modified food. According to new GMO meat facts, corn makes up the majority of crops that are 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.
Having 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 great dangers to the environment.
20. Since GM crops have been introduced in 1996, the use of pesticides has increased by 404 million pounds.
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.
21. Depending on the climate, glyphosate stays in the soil for up to 6 months.
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, but it can be toxic in combination with other chemicals.
Nonetheless, it kills plants, and this land clearing is affecting the habitats of millions of animals.
22. Hybridization in areas with both GM and wild plants can reach 33%.
The EC has conducted a study on GM sunflowers, claiming they would be the most profitable plant for farmers.
However, their pro–GMO facts also reveal that insect pollination can spread the sunflower seeds more than 1 km from GMO fields, contaminating wild plants and negatively affecting biodiversity in the process.
23. 16 weed species in the US have become resistant to pesticides.
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.
24. What percent of our food is genetically modified?
A huge 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.
25. What is the risk of GMO?
GMOs can cause allergic reactions, resistance to antibiotics, and eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a flu-like neurological condition, and many other conditions.
26. 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, and vegetable and canola oils.
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. What are the 5 most common GMO crops?
The most common GMO crops are alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, and papaya.
30. How do farmers benefit from GMOs?
Farmers who grow GMOs have lower production costs, fewer pest problems, and better yields.
31. What are the benefits of GMOs?
There are some obvious benefits of using GMOs like increasing productivity in agriculture, lowering production costs, which also leads to lower food prices, and fewer pests.
It’s clear that we live in a world where our interactions with nature have not just a huge 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.