Global economic and environmental benefits of GM crops continue to rise

Press release: 22 May 2012: Dorchester, UK: The seventh annual report on crop biotechnology impacts shows another year of delivering considerable economic and environmental benefits to the farmers and citizens of countries where the technology is used

Over the 15 year period covered in the report, crop biotechnology has consistently provided important economic and production gains, improved incomes and reduced risk for farmers around the world that have grown GM crops” said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the report. “The environment in user countries is benefiting from farmers using more benign herbicides or replacing insecticide use with insect resistant GM crops. 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”

Previewing the study, the key findings are:

  • The net economic benefit at the farm level in 2010 was $14 billion, equal to an average increase in income of $100/hectare. For the 15 year period (1996-2010), the global farm income gain has been $78.4 billion;
  • The insect resistant (IR) technology used in cotton and corn has consistently delivered the highest increase in farm income, especially in developing countries (notably cotton in India and China ); the average farm income gains from using IR cotton and corn in 2010 were $284/ha and $89/ha respectively;
  • Of the total farm income benefit, 60% ($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 (HT) crops; 
  • A majority (55%) of the 2010 farm income gains went to farmers in developing countries, 90% of which are resource poor and small farms. Cumulatively (1996-2010), about 50% of the benefit each went to farmers in developing and developed countries;
  • The cost farmers paid for accessing crop biotechnology in 2010 was equal to 28% of the total technology gains (a total of $19.3 billion inclusive of farm income gains ($14 billion) plus cost of the technology payable to the seed supply chain ($5.3 billion ));
  • For farmers in developing countries the total cost of accessing the technology in 2010 was equal to 17% of total technology gains, whilst for farmers in developed countries the cost was 37% of the total technology gains. The higher share of total technology gains accounted for by farm income gains in developing countries relative to the farm income share in developed countries mainly reflects weaker provision and enforcement of intellectual property rights coupled with higher average levels of benefits in developing countries;
  • Between 1996 and 2010, crop biotechnology was responsible for an additional 97.5 million tonnes of soybeans and 159.4 million tonnes of corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 12.5 million tonnes of cotton lint and 6.1 million tonnes of canola; 
  • 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 5.1 million ha of soybeans, 5.6 million ha of corn, 3 million ha of cotton and 0.35 million ha of canola. This total area requirement is equivalent to 8.6% of the arable land in the US, 23% of the arable land in Brazil or 25% of the cereal area in the EU (27);
  • 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 kg 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 (1996-2010) by 438 million kg (-8.6%). This is equal to the total amount of pesticide active ingredient applied to arable crops in the EU 27 for one and a half crop years. 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% ;
  • 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.

For additional information, contact Graham Brookes Tel +44(0) 1531 650123. www.pgeconomics.co.uk

To read the complete report - download here.