MAY 2012


(Posted Fri. May 25th, 2012)

May 25: Both the farmers and citizens of countries using biotechnology reap considerable economic and environmental benefits, according to a study released this week by PG Economics Limited.  Spanning 15 years, the report documents important gains in production, improved incomes and reduced risk for farmers.


 “The environment in user countries is benefiting from farmers using more benign herbicides or replacing insecticide use with insect-resistant GM crops,” said Graham Brookes, one of the study’s authors. “The reduction in pesticide spraying and the switch to no till cropping systems is also resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of these benefits are found in developing countries.”


Looking at the farm-level impact on socio-economic and environmental factors beginning in 1996, the year in which crop varieties developed through biotechnology became commercially available, the researchers found that use of this technology consistently produced benefits for farmers, including those in developing nations.


“The adoption of GM crops is making an important contribution to the development of crop production systems that require fewer pesticide applications, reduces the risk of crop losses due to insects and weeds, and increases the yields for all types of farmers in developed and developing economies,” the report concluded.


Key findings include:


  • In 2010, farm-level economic benefit from adoption of crops varieties developed through biotechnology totaled $14 billion, equal to an average increase in income of $40.48 per acre. For the 15-year period from 1996 to 2010, the global farm income gain totaled $78.4 billion;
  • Of the total farm income benefit, 60 percent, $46.8 billion, has been due to yield gains resulting from lower pest and weed pressure and improved genetics, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production. Three-quarters of the yield gain came from adoption of IR crops and the balance from herbicide tolerant crops; 
  • A majority of the 2010 farm income gains (55 percent) went to farmers in developing countries, 90 percent of which are resource-poor and small farms;
  • The cost farmers paid for accessing crop biotechnology in 2010 was equal to only 28 percent of the total technology gains;
  • Between 1996 and 2010, crop biotechnology was responsible for an additional 3.5 billion bushels of soybeans and 6.2 billion bushels of corn; 
  • If crop biotechnology had not been available to the 15.4 million farmers using the technology in 2010, maintaining global production levels at the 2010 levels would have required additional plantings of 12.6 million acres of soybeans, 13.8 million acres of corn, 7.4 million acres of cotton and 850,000 acres of canola.
  • This total area requirement is equivalent to 8.6 percent of the arable land in the United States;
  • Crop biotechnology has contributed to significantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. This results from less fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from reduced tillage with GM crops. In 2010, this was equivalent to removing 42.7 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 8.6 million cars from the road for one year;
  • Crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying by 963 million pounds an 8.6 percent decrease. As a result, this has decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops by 17.9 percent.

For the full report, click here.