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How many pounds of GM foods are produced each year in the U.S.A.

Submitted by: CodyMcGuire1997


Expert response from Janet Carpenter

Owner, J E Carpenter Consulting LLC M.S. Agricultural and Resource Economics

Thursday, 08/05/2014 14:49

The answer to this seemingly straightforward question is, unfortunately, not so simple. However, when we look across the eight crops for which GM varieties are currently grown commercially in the U.S. (corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets, canola, alfalfa, squash and papaya), most of them are used for animal feed, biofuel, textiles or other industrial uses, not directly for food. Of the food uses, most of the GM food reaches grocery store shelves in the form of processed products. Currently, there is very little GM food in the U.S. that is consumed as unprocessed whole food. The uses of each of these eight crops are discussed in more detail below.


Corn: As the field crop with the largest acreage planted (95 million acres) and a 90 percent GM adoption rate in 2013, field corn is the leading GM crop in the U.S. The primary uses of field corn are feed and biofuel, which accounted for 45 percent and 43 percent of domestic use in 2013, respectively. Approximately 1.4 billion bushels (12 percent) of field corn was used for domestic food, seed and industrial use in 2013. Food uses of field corn include high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, starch, corn oil, beverage alcohol, cereal, corn flour, corn grits, corn meal and brewers’ grits for beer.[i] Sweet corn is a minor crop in the U.S. by comparison: GM sweet corn was estimated to be grown on 2,500 acres in 2013,[ii] out of approximately half a million acres total.[iii]


Soybeans: The second-largest field crop in the U.S in terms of acreage planted (77 million acres), and with an adoption rate of 93 percent in 2013, soybeans are the second-biggest GM crop in the U.S. Most soybeans are processed for oil and protein for the animal feed industry. A smaller amount is processed for human consumption, including soybean oil, soy milk, soy flour, soy protein, tofu and many retail food products. Soybeans are also used in many nonfood industrial products, including biofuel.[iv] Estimates of the proportion of the soybean crop that is used in food were not readily available. 


Cotton: Among the major field crops in the U.S., cotton was planted on over 10 million acres in 2013, 90 percent of which was planted with GM varieties. While the primary use of cotton is in the textile industry, cottonseed oil is used almost entirely in food. It is estimated that 70 percent of cottonseed oil used in the U.S. is consumed as salad or cooking oil, one-fifth is used in the production of baking and frying fats (shortening) and a small amount is consumed in margarine.[v] In 2013, 630 million pounds of cottonseed oil were produced in the U.S.[vi]


Sugar beets: Adoption of GM varieties by U.S. sugar beet growers has risen rapidly, to 98 percent of the 1.2 million acres planted in 2013.[vii] Nearly 5 million tons of sugar were produced from sugar beets in 2013–14 in the U.S.[viii] Sugar beet pulp and molasses are processing by-products that are widely used as supplements in animal feed. There is also some use of sugar beet pulp in high-fiber dietary food additives.[ix]


Canola: The U.S. is a relatively minor producer of canola, which was planted on a total of 1.3 million acres,[x] with 93 percent adoption of GM varieties, in 2013.[xi] Approximately 1.2 million pounds of canola oil were produced in the U.S. in 2012–13. In the U.S., canola oil is used in frying and baking applications and is an ingredient in salad dressings, margarine and a variety of other products. Canola meal is used in animal feed.


Alfalfa: Alfalfa is grown as a perennial crop, comprising 2.5 million acres of new seeded area in the U.S. in 2013 and nearly 18 million acres harvested.[xii] It is estimated that about 800,000 acres of GM alfalfa were planted in 2013.[xiii] Alfalfa is used as animal feed. In addition, some alfalfa is grown for alfalfa sprouts; the technology use agreement for glyphosate-tolerant alfalfa prohibits planting for the production of sprouts.[xiv]


Squash: Small areas of GM summer squash are grown in the U.S., estimated at approximately 5,000 acres of a total of 43,600 acres planted to all summer squash in 2013.[xv],[xvi] This is most likely all used for food. 


Papaya: Approximately 5,000 acres of GM papaya are grown in Hawaii, or approximately 60 percent of total papaya acreage.[xvii] All of the papaya grown is also likely used for food.




[ii] James, Clive, 2013, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013, ISAAA.





[vii] James, C., 2013, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013, ISAAA.




[xi] James, C., 2013, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013, ISAAA.


[xiii] James, C., 2013, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013, ISAAA.


[xv] James, C., 2013, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013, ISAAA.


[xvii] James, C., 2013, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013, ISAAA.


Expert response from GMOAnswers Admin_1

Thursday, 08/05/2014 14:17