If you live in the US, it’s likely GMO foods are already a significant part of your diet. Despite some people’s objections to them and some alarming GMO statistics, GMO (or GE for genetically engineered) crops have grown to encompass a massive share of the worldwide crop production.
In more than two decades since the GMOs’ inception, researchers have devoted more time and resources to their study than to almost any other field. As a result, the information we have about GMOs now is both substantial and reliable.
To give you a concise overview of that information, we’ve compiled 20 of the most interesting GMO-related statistics we could find.
The Top 10 GMO Stats and Facts:
- Over 70% of the food on store shelves in the US contains GMO ingredients in one form or another.
- Since their inception over 20 years ago, GMOs have not caused a single human death.
- 38 countries around the world expressly ban the cultivation of GMO crops, but many still import them.
- Despite the claims of industry proponents, GMOs don’t seem to conclusively increase crop yields.
- Some people view genetic engineering as a form of bioterrorism and dismiss the GMO facts speaking to the contrary.
- If it wasn’t for GMOs, Hawaii’s papaya industry may not exist today.
- A fast-growing, genetically engineered salmon was created in 1994, and you may be able to buy it in stores very soon.
- There are more varieties of GMO corn than any other genetically engineered crop—238, to be exact.
- If a food contains less than 5% ingredients from GMO sources, it doesn’t need to carry the GMO label in the US.
- Almost half of the consumers in the US say they actively avoid eating GMO foods.
A Healthy Dose of Health-Related GMO Info
1. GMO death statistics are ridiculously overblown.
GMO detractors are quick to point to GMO health risk statistics when trying to discredit GMOs. However, extensive research into GMOs by government and private organizations around the world hasn’t linked GMOs to a single human death.
2. GMOs probably don’t cause or contribute to cancer in humans.
While there are some alarming GMO cancer statistics, the studies that produced them have been largely discredited. According to a report published in Current Oncology, the notion that GMOs cause cancer has little basis in reality. However, the same study warns that all preserved edible products have traces of carcinogenic substances.
So if you are concerned about alarming health and wellness statistics that have been linked to GMOs, you should know that not all of them are well-founded.
3. Genetically Engineered foods are just as safe as non-GE foods.
The National Academy of Sciences, in a comprehensive report encompassing myriad GMO foods statistics and witness testimonies, reached an unambiguous conclusion. GMO foods are safe for humans. At least, they’re as safe as foods that haven’t been genetically altered.
4. A GE variety of rice could save hundreds of thousands of lives annually.
Golden rice (a variety of rice modified to synthesize beta-carotene) aims to help undernourished populations combat vitamin A deficiency (VAD). VAD is the cause of death of an estimated 500,000 children under five, every year. Their potential to drastically reduce this number is one of the most encouraging facts about GMO foods.
5. 38 countries ban the cultivation of GMO crops, despite the GMO-related statistics disproving their danger.
(Genetic Literacy Project)
It’s estimated that 26 countries actively grow GMO crops on a regular basis. In contrast, 38 countries explicitly ban their cultivation, with most still allowing the import of genetically engineered products and livestock feed.
GMO Crop Yield Statistics That May Surprise You
6. Genetically engineered crops don’t seem to have significantly higher crop yields.
A report from The Union of Concerned Scientists largely discredits the idea that GMO crops are more productive than the unaltered ones. GMO yield statistics, according to the report, can be more correctly attributed to improved farming practices and traditional cross-breeding methods.
7. Most of the food we eat in the US is GMO—by a wide margin.
Some might find it shocking, but our kitchens are full of GMO. Up to 70% of the food in the US has at least one GMO ingredient. And it’s no surprise given the portion of crops that are genetically engineered.
8. Farmers in the US grow almost no conventional corn or soybeans.
Although GMO corn statistics receive the most attention, soybeans are the most planted GE crop by acreage. In the US, over 95% of soybeans and 92% of the corn harvested in 2018 were GE.
9. The United States leads the world in GMO crops with over 185 million acres.
The US is the undisputed leader in terms of the amount of GMO crop yield. The closest contender is Brazil with 126 million acres.
According to USDA GMO statistics, these numbers are slated to go up as the adoption of GMO crops is increasing across the country.
10. GMO corn stats indicate there are more varieties of GMO corn than any other species.
There’s a good reason why corn GMO facts are so prevalent. There are an astounding 238 different kinds of genetically modified corn. Not all of them are widely used or approved, but it goes to show just how wide-ranging genetic engineering techniques can be.
11. GMO papayas may have saved Hawaii’s papaya farming industry.
An outbreak of ringspot virus disease decimated Hawaii’s papaya crop in the 1990s. Since this was one of Hawaii’s biggest cash crops, this threatened the livelihood of thousands of people. However, a ringspot-resistant papaya variety called Rainbow papaya saved the day and Hawaii’s papaya farmers.
Some more papaya GMO facts? Although they’re thought to originate in Mexico, almost none of Mexico’s papaya crop is GMO.
GMO Consumption Statistics and Facts About Consumer Attitudes
12. Some consumers surveyed in China consider GMOs to be a form of bioterrorism.
A survey conducted by the researchers from the California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research looked at consumer attitudes toward GMOs in China. Only about 11% of respondents said they understood the basics of genetic modification technology and are knowledgeable about pertinent GMO statistics.
However, 13.8% of the respondents viewed the technology as a bioterrorist threat targeted specifically at China.
13. The number of people in the US who claim to avoid GMO foods has more than tripled since 2007.
In 2007, only 15% of survey respondents in the US reported avoiding GMO foods. In 2018, that number jumped to 46%.
Although not indicative of people’s actions, the shifting attitudes are a cause for alarm among GMO food producers. The spread of anti-GMO facts could be partially to blame for this increase.
14. Some foods with GMO ingredients may not be labeled as such.
(Illinois Farm Families)
GMO labeling legislation has been in place since 2016 in the US, but the extent of products covered has changed. One of the potentially alarming GMO facts that you should know is that, as of January 2020, only foods with more than 5% of GMO ingredients have to carry the GMO label.
Furthermore, eggs, milk, refined ingredients, food sold in small shops or restaurants, and non-food products don’t need to be labeled either.
15. Consumers in the US trust university scientists the most for their GMO information.
When learning about GMO statistics, US consumers were most likely to trust scientists tied to a university for reliable data. Consumers trust food manufacturers the least when it comes to GMO data, ranking that group below grocery stores, government agencies, and farmers.
16. Almost half of the adults surveyed in the US think GMO foods are worse for one’s health than conventional foods.
A survey by the Pew Research Center looked at consumer opinions about genetically modified foods. Respondents were fairly equally divided with 49% saying GE foods are worse for one’s health and 44% saying they’re no better or worse.
Interestingly, significantly more women than men (56% vs. 43%) thought GE foods are worse for health.
Facts and Statistics About GMO Foods—History and Future Trends
17. The first commercially available GMO food was a tomato.
Genetically modified organisms, as we know them now, date back to 1973. In that year, two scientists successfully transferred an antibiotic resistance encoding gene from one strain of bacteria into another.
However, it wouldn’t be until 1992 that a biotech company named Calgene released their FlavrSavr tomato. As the first GMO food on the market, the FlavrSavr tomato didn’t do very well. But it opened the doors for the deluge of GMO products we have today.
Despite the bad reception, the FlavrSavr did stay fresh longer, and scientists hoped it could be the first step towards reducing the food waste in the US.
18. According to GMO statistics, 2020 should be a banner year for the GE seed industry.
(Fortune Business Insights)
The GMO seed industry is dominated by a handful of global players, and sales revenues in the sector have been growing since 2018. By 2026, analysts estimate it will balloon to over $30 billion, up from $20 billion in 2018. That increase represents a CAGR of 5.3%.
19. The first GMO animal could soon hit the store shelves near you.
Scientists developed a genetically modified salmon species decades ago. Today, the fast-growing AquAdvantage salmon is almost ready for commercialization, with only a few regulatory hurdles to overcome.
Want a few more GMO salmon facts? The AquAdvantage salmon only has around 4,000 modified base pairs from a genome of almost three million, and it could aid in the preservation of wild salmon if it’s a commercial success.
With all the facts about water usage indicating that we might be slowly running out of freshwater resources, GMO fish might help make sustainable fisheries in the future.
20. Future GMO products may not be GMO at all.
One of the most exciting new technologies in gene editing is the CRISPR method, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, for the science buffs. With CRISPR, scientists can make highly precise gene edits. Of course, we are yet to see what kind of influence this is going to have on the GMO statistics related to the adoption of these foods.
One of the cutting-edge GE processes researchers developed is known as lipofection. Through this process, they were able to make genetic modifications that don’t introduce new DNA to plants.
The result? Genetically engineered crops that don’t fit the GMO designation.
What percent of our food is genetically modified?
Directly or indirectly, over 75% of the food on the US store shelves contain genetically modified ingredients. And the percentage is growing every year.
How many crops are GMO?
There are 10 GMO crops currently grown in the United States. However, those crops account for almost half of the arable land use in the country.
(Genetic Literacy Project)
What country produces the most GMOs?
The United States. Ahead of the rest of the world, the US grows GMO crops across 185 million acres of land. Brazil is in second place with 126 million acres. Argentine, Canada, and India make up the rest of the top five with 59 million, 30 million, and 28 million acres, respectively.
What is bad about genetically modified food?
Despite much adverse sentiment, there’s no substantial evidence pointing to negative health effects of GMOs on humans. However, there is a case to be made for GMOs’ impact on the ecosystem, sustainable agriculture, and the increased use of pesticides stemming from their use.
What percent of crops are GMO in the US?
A little over 46% of the arable land in the US is used to cultivate GMO crops. According to the most recent USDA GMO data, over 90% of the corn, cotton, and soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified. GMO corn acreage peaked at 95% of all the corn in the US in 2019.
How many countries have banned GMOs?
According to the latest estimates, 38. Additionally, 11 regions or subdivisions have wide-ranging restrictions on the amount and type of GMOs they allow. It’s important to note that bans on cultivation aren’t the same as bans on imports, which most countries allow.
(Genetic Literacy Project)
As you can see, there is still a lot of confusion around when it comes to GMO products. While there is still research to be done on GMOs, most of the data we have now indicate they are safe for human consumption.
However, it’s not entirely clear if the drawbacks of GMOs outweigh their benefits. Many researchers and scientists agree on the negative environmental impacts of GMOs. From herbicide use to cross-pollination with conventional crops, GMO statistics clearly show that these products are not without their dangers.
It will be interesting to track the new developments and changes in the research in the coming years. Genetically engineered animals and GMO meat are very real projects and will likely be staples of our diet in the following decades. Until then, stay curious and make sure you only trust reliable sources when looking for information.