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Global economic benefits of GM crops reach almost $100 billion

Published on: 22nd April 2013
Published By PG Economics



Press release: 22 April 2013: Dorchester, UK:  In the sixteenth year of widespread adoption, crop biotechnology has delivered an unparalleled level of farm income benefit to the farmers, as well as providing considerable environmental benefits to both farmers and citizens of countries where the technology is used.

"Where farmers have been given the choice of growing GM crops, adoption levels have typically been rapid. Why? The economic benefits farmers realize are clear and amounted to an average of over $130/hectare in 2011" said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the report. "The majority of these benefits continue to increasingly go to farmers in developing countries. The environment is also benefiting as farmers increasingly adopt conservation tillage practices, build their weed management practices around more benign herbicides and replace insecticide use with insect resistant GM crops. The reduction in pesticide spraying and the switch to no till cropping systems is continuing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture".

Previewing the study - "GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2011", the key findings are:

  • The net economic benefit at the farm level in 2011 was $19.8 billion, equal to an average increase in income of $133/hectare. For the 16 year period (1996-2011), the global farm income gain has been $98.2 billion;
  • Of the total farm income benefit, 49% ( $48 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; 
  • The insect resistant (IR) technology used in cotton and corn has consistently delivered yield gains from reduced pest damage. The average yield gains over the 1996-2011 period across all users of this technology has been +10.1% for insect resistant corn and +15.8% for insect resistant cotton;
  • A majority (51%) of the 2011 farm income gains went to farmers in developing countries, 90% of which are resource poor and small farms. Cumulatively (1996-2011), about 50% of the benefit each went to farmers in developing and developed countries;
  • The cost farmers paid for accessing crop biotechnology in 2011 was equal to 21% of the total technology gains (a total of $24.2 billion inclusive of farm income gains ( $19.8 billion) plus cost of the technology payable to the seed supply chain ( $5.4 billion(1,2)));
  • For farmers in developing countries the total cost of accessing the technology in 2011 was equal to 14% of total technology gains, whilst for farmers in developed countries the cost was 28% 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 2011, crop biotechnology was responsible for an additional 110 million tonnes of soybeans and 195 million tonnes of corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 15.8 million tonnes of cotton lint and 6.6 million tonnes of canola; 
  • If crop biotechnology had not been available to the (16.7 million) farmers using the technology in 2011, maintaining global production levels at the 2011 levels would have required additional plantings of 5.4 million ha of soybeans, 6.6 million ha of corn, 3.3 million ha of cotton and 0.2 million ha of canola. This total area requirement is equivalent to 9% of the arable land in the US, 25% of the arable land in Brazil or 28% 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 2011, this was equivalent to removing 23 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 10.2 million cars from the road for one year;
  • Crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2011) by 474 million kg (-9%). This is equal to the total amount of pesticide active ingredient applied to arable crops in the EU 27 for one and three-quarter 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 18.1%(3);
  • The environmental gains from the GM IR traits have mostly derived from decreased use of insecticides, whilst the gains from GM HT traits have come from a combination of use of more environmentally benign products and facilitation of changes in farming systems away from conventional to reduced and no tillage production systems in both North and South America. This change in production system has reduced levels of GHG emissions from reduced tractor fuel use and additional soil carbon storage.

Footnotes:

(1) The cost of the technology accrues to the seed supply chain including sellers of seed to farmers, seed multipliers, plant breeders, distributors and the GM technology providers
(2) A typical ‘equivalent’ cost of technology share for non GM forms of production (eg, for new seed or forms of crop protection) is 30%-40% 
(3) As measured by the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) indicator (developed at Cornell University)

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

Also contents available as two papers (with open access), separately, covering economic and environmental impacts, in the peer review journal GM Crops and Food at www.landesbioscience.com/journal/gmcrops.

The global income and production effects of genetically modified (GM) crops 1996–2011.  Volume 4, Issue 1 January/February/March 2013 Pages 74 - 83; and

Key environmental impacts of global genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996–2011. Volume 4, Issue 2 April/May/June 2013, 1-11, (forthcoming) 

PG Economics: 22nd Apr 2013 10:26:00

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Biotechnology Adoption In Corn Cultivation In Vietnam Shows Positive Impacts Of Higher Productivity, Increased Farmer Income And Environmental Improvement.

Biotechnology adoption in corn cultivation in Vietnam shows positive impacts of higher productivity, increased farmer income and environmental improvement. WORKSHOP: CONTRIBUTIONS OF AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY ADOPTION IN VIETNAM

First Study Of Impact Of Using Biotech-gm Maize In Vietnam Highlights Substantial Economic And Environmental Benefits

First study of impact of using biotech/GM maize in Vietnam highlights substantial economic and environmental benefits. Highlights in the peer reviewed paper include: 225,000 hectares have been planted to maize containing GM traits in Vietnam since 2015 and in 2019, the technology was used on 10.2% of the total maize crop. The technology has enabled Vietnamese farmers to obtain higher yields from better pest and weed control: the GM varieties out-performed conventional varieties by +30.4% (+15.2% if the yield comparison is with only the nearest performing equivalent conventional varieties). The extra production and reduced cost of pest and weed control have provided maize farmers with higher incomes equal to an average of between US $196 per ha (relative to equivalent conventional varieties) and US $330 per ha (average of all conventional varieties). In terms of investment, for each extra US dollar invested in GM maize seed (relative to the cost of conventional seed), farmers gained an average of between US $6.84 and US $ 12.55 in extra income. These levels of return are at the higher end of the range of performance for similar maize seed GM technology in other adopting countries. Aggregate farm incomes have increased by a total of between US $43.8 million (based on the yield gains relative to the nearest equivalent conventional varieties) and US $74.1 million (based on yield gains relative to all conventional varieties). The maize seed technology has reduced insecticide and herbicide spraying. The average amount of herbicide active ingredient applied to the GM crop area was 26% lower than the average value for the conventional maize area and in terms of the associated environmental impact of the herbicide use[3], it was lower by 36% than the average value applicable to the conventional maize area. Insecticides were used on a significantly lower GM crop area and, when used, in smaller amounts. The average amount of insecticide applied to the GM maize crop was 78% lower than the average value for the conventional maize area and, in terms of the associated environmental impact of the insecticide use, it was also lower by 77%.

Crop Biotechnology Continues To Provide Higher Farmer Income And Significant Environmental Benefits

PG Economics Report 2020 - Farmers who planted genetically modified (GM) crops increased their incomes by almost $19 billion in 2018 and reduced carbon emissions by 23 billion kilograms or the equivalent of removing 15.3 million cars from the roads that year. The higher income represents $4.42 in extra income for each extra dollar invested, according to a report released today by PG Economics.

New Paper Quantifies 15 Years Of Economic And Environmental Benefits From Using Biotech-gm Crops In Colombia[1]

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.