QAccording to this study by the University of Illinois, non GMO crops are producing greater yields than your GMO corn. Can you confirm or deny these findings?

According to this study by the University of Illinois, non GMO crops are producing greater yields than your GMO corn. Can you confirm or deny these findings?

AExpert Answer

It is quite possible to have a high yielding variety that isn't GM. In the absence of insects, weeds, drought or some other environmental challenge, GM varieties don't necessarily yield any better, and if overall genetics are better in a non-GM variety, it will produce a higher yield.


One therefore needs to know how the test was done.  For example if there were no corn borers, no weeds, and no root worms there would be no need for GM corn.  If there was a drought and they didn't water then a non-GM drought resistant type would easily win.  As is the case with all research, the devil is in the details.


In this case, the question refers to the results of what is called our Variety Testing Program where seed companies pay to enter their varieties in common field trials conducted on anywhere from 3 to 12 farmers’ fields throughout the state of Illinois, to see how they compare with other varieties.  The results from any given year are certainly appropriate to use in a marketing sense, but would not be considered scientifically robust unless trends are viewed over multiple years. 


The data presented would indicate that the 17 non-GM hybrids entered into the study show the same range of yields as the 86 GM hybrids entered into three locations in the North Illinois region. What isn’t included in the report is the costs to the farmer to produce that yield, or the quality of the grain produced, as GM corn shows clear reductions in contamination by fungal pathogens that lead to moldy ears. 


The North Illinois location in 2013 was a “high yield” environment, where the tillage, soil insecticide, fertilizer, and herbicide treatments, in combination with good rainfall throughout the season, resulted in relatively little stress on the plants.  Thus, the trial conditions made it more difficult to observe the advantages that GM traits are designed to provide.


So when you see research like this, it’s wise to ask questions.  This research provides part of a large puzzle, but ultimately farmers make the call when it comes to what seed is right for their fields and their business.  Thanks for posting this question – curiosity like yours gives us a chance to elaborate and clarify.

Posted on November 26, 2017
One of the great things about farming is our ability to grow many different crops, while at the same time having the choices to raise them in different fashions, with or without biotech in the crops, especially in crops like corn. This can also be challenging as we have to work with our neighbors to make sure what we are growing doesn't cause a negative effect on what they are growing. This can happen in many different instances.    We raise production seed corn,... Read More
Posted on November 17, 2017
A similar question has been answered here  If you have any additional questions, please ask! Read More
Posted on November 10, 2017
GMOs can affect the environment in many ways, and this response discusses the many ways in which GMOs can benefit the environment and the impact GM crops have on the environment. The data in this response from Brookes and Barfoot is from 2013, updated information can be found in their most recent report here.   Additionally, these infographics are helpful in explaining how GMOs can help preserve the habitat and H2O, protect the environment and improve soil health.   Kevin Folta,... Read More