Updated: November 1, 2018

Current Situation

Farmers plant approximately 94 percent of U.S. soybean acreage with seed enhanced by biotechnology, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The use of biotechnology to develop enhanced soybean varieties enables farmers to use fewer resources while increasing productivity, which improves the sustainability of U.S. soy. In addition to increasing the sustainability of U.S. soy, biotech traits allow U.S. soybean farmers to continue meeting evolving end-user needs. High oleic soy is one example of an innovation in seed technology that provides end users with a more functional, and in demand, soybean oil.

New biotech traits require a rigorous approval process to ensure product safety and security. However, global regulatory delays and asynchronous approvals cost time and money. With the use and number of biotech crops on the rise, global regulatory systems will see many more requests for new biotech product reviews.

U.S. soybean farmers benefit from accessing this technology quickly. New biotech traits enable farmers to produce U.S. soy sustainably to meet end-user demands. Accurate, transparent and efficient biotech trait approvals enhance U.S. soy’s global competitive advantage.

Why the Checkoff Cares

Timely biotech approvals enable U.S. soybean farmers to plant new varieties to continuously improve the quality and sustainability of the U.S. soy crop. The U.S. is one of the leading producers of soy globally, and increased acceptance of biotechnology and timely approvals allow U.S. soy to maintain its competitive edge.

Key Points

  • Biotechnology improves soybean seeds available to farmers, providing them with new ways to combat weeds, insects and other agronomic challenges so they can produce the food, feed and fuel end users demand.
  • Biotech crops and foods are among the most regulated and tested products in history. These products undergo years of research, development and required regulatory approvals.
  • Although a regulatory framework is necessary for trait approvals, global regulatory systems are complex and fragmented, which causes uncertainty and a lack of predictability for developers of biotech products, including seed companies.
  • Rigid, complex regulatory systems and public perception have delayed the approval of biotech traits across the globe. Currently, Chinese approvals of imported biotech products take about six years. In 2015, it took the EU an average of 6.5 years from the time of submission until final authorization of a GM crop for import.
  • Current biotech approval delays could cost farmers and consumers nearly $19 billion over the next 10 years.
  • Approval delays threaten the sustainability and security of the global food supply by impeding trade with soy importing countries.

Facts & Figures

  • Biotech crops first became commercially available in 1994.
  • From 1996 to 2015, biotech crops collectively reduced global pesticide applications by 1.4 billion pounds.
  • Council of Agricultural Science and Technology study showed that biotech crops yield the following environmental benefits:
    • 93 percent decrease in soil erosion.
    • Preservation of 1 billion tons of topsoil.
    • 70 percent reduction in herbicide runoff.
    • Reduction in CO2 emissions by 326 million pounds.1
  • In 2015, biotechnology enabled farmers to use 51 million fewer acres of land to produce the same number of crops.
  • In 2017, biotech crops were grown on over 170 million acres in the United States, including over 92 percent of corn, soybean and cotton total acreage, according to the Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

1 CAST, 2009. Sustainability of U.S. Soybean Production: Conventional, Transgenic, and Organic Production Systems