On National Agriculture Day, it’s good to remember the large, positive impact that agricultural biotechnology has had on the farm economy of the United States. Farmers in the United States and around the world have embraced crops enhanced through biotechnology because they provide value and solve real problems.
U.S. farmers in particular have taken advantage of biotechnology. The USDA estimates that in 2012, farmers in the United States planted biotech varieties of soybeans, corn and cotton on 168 million acres of land. This includes:
- 93 percent of all soybeans planted, on 71 million acres;
- 88 percent of all corn planted, on 85 million acres;
- 94 percent of all upland cotton planted, on 12 million acres.
These crops are very valuable. It’s estimated that the sale value of biotech corn, soybeans, and cotton crops in the U.S. in 2012 was around $113 billion.
Biotechnology improves yields and allows farmers to raise crops with fewer inputs such as insecticides and weedkillers. The cost savings have been substantial since biotech crops were first commercialized in the 1990s. According to economists Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot of PG Economics, from 1996 to 2010, U.S. farmers saw a positive impact on their earnings of $35 billion attributable to biotechnology.
The figures don’t include the substantial environmental benefits of biotechnology from no-till farming, which preserves the soil and prevents water pollution, and the reduction in carbon emissions from less plowing. Worldwide, according to Brookes and Barfoot, “biotech crop-related carbon dioxide emission savings in 2010 were equal to the removal from the roads of 8.6 million cars.”
Experts appreciate the role that biotech has played and will continue to play in better farming.
“Clearly, the future of our planet requires that we improve the environmental, economic and social impacts of our global farming systems,” said Pam Ronald, professor of plant pathology at the University of California/Davis and an expert in biotechnology. “Genetically engineered crops will continue to play an important role in this future.”