Crop biotechnology has continued to provide important economic and production gains, improved incomes and reduced risk for farmers around the world, according to the seventh annual report on crop biotechnology impacts prepared by UK-based PG Economics. More than half (55 percent) of the 2010 farm income gains went to farmers in developing countries, 90 percent of whom are resource-poor smallholders, the report said.
“The advantages of advanced seed technology for farmers in developing countries come at a time when food availability is becoming more of an issue around the world,” said Dr. Cathleen Enright, executive director of the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI).
“The population continues to grow, but for many farmers, their ability to produce food remains stuck in the past,” she said. “In order to double food production by 2050 to meet demand, new seed technologies must be utilized.
The PG Economics report on crop biotechnology impacts also highlights agricultural biotechnology’s contributions to environmental sustainability.
“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, director of PG Economics and co-author of the report. “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.”
Two papers derived from the detailed, 200-page report have been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, the authors said. Among the key findings of the PG Economics report:
- 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 19.4 billion kilograms (kg) of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 8.6 million cars from the road for one year.
- Crop biotechnology reduced pesticide spraying in the period 1996-2010 by 438 million kg, reducing the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops by 17.9 percent.
- Farmers growing biotech crops have seen net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $14 billion in 2010 and $78.4 billion for the 15 year (1996-2010) period.
- Of the total farm income benefit, 60 percent ($46.8 billion) has been due to yield gains, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production.
- Since 1996, biotech traits have added 97.5 million tons to the global production of soybeans and 159.4 million tons of corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 12.5 million tons of cotton lint and 6.1 million tons of canola.
To download the full report, “GM Crops: Global Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts 1996-2010,” visit www.pgeconomics.co.uk