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Specialist provider of advisory & consultancy services to
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New paper quantifies 15 years of economic and environmental benefits from using biotech-GM crops in Colombia[1]

Published: 11th February 2020

Highlights in the peer reviewed[2] paper include: About 1 million hectares have been planted to cotton and maize containing GM traits in Colombia since 2003 and in 2018, the technology was used on the equivalent of 90% and 36% respectively of the total cotton and (commercial) maize crops. Use of this technology has enabled Colombian farmers to obtain higher yields from better pest and weed control (+30.2% from using stacked - herbicide tolerant and insect resistant cotton and +17.4% from using stacked maize). The extra production and reduced cost of pest and weed control have provided maize farmers with higher incomes equal to an average of US $294/ha and an average return on investment equal to +US $5.25 for each extra US $1 spent on GM maize seed relative to conventional seed. For cotton farmers, the average increase in income has been + US $358/ha, with an average return on investment equal to +US $3.09 for each extra US $1 spent on GM seed relative to conventional seed. Farm incomes have increased by a total of just over US $300 million since 2003. The cotton and maize seed technology have reduced insecticide and herbicide spraying by 779,400 kg of active ingredient (-19%) and, as a result, decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops (as measured by the indicator, the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ)) by 26%. The technology has also facilitated cuts in fuel use, resulting in a reduction in the release of greenhouse gas emissions from the GM cotton and maize cropping area and contributed to saving scarce land resources.

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PG Economics Limited is a specialist provider of advisory and consultancy services to agriculture and sectors that both service/supply agriculture and use agricultural raw materials. Our specific areas of specialisation are new technology use in agriculture (eg, plant biotechnology, new breeding techniques), agricultural production systems, agricultural markets, policy, regulation and trade agreements.

The Earth’s population is expected to grow to 9.7 billion over the next 33 years, and that’s a huge exponential growth rate. We only hit our first billion total in 1800. All in all, it adds up to a lot of mouths to feed, especially when you consider the vast hunger issues that certain parts of the world face today. How can this be done both sustainably and reliably without destroying our planet? Do we ‘simply’ need to produce more food? Or is it more important to sort out distribution networks, develop new technological solutions to keeping food fresh, and cut down on waste? Denis Murphy is Professor of biotechnology at University of South Wales, Helen Woodfield is a lecturer at Cardiff University's School of Biosciences and Graham Brookes is an agricultural economist. Chaired by Jonathon Harrington.

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