US: Biotech crops making important contributions to sustainable farming
Posted: May 21st, 2009 - 10:14pm
New (annual) study shows biotech crops have delivered significant global economic and environmental benefits and are making important contributions to global food production & security.
"Since 1996, biotech crop adoption has contributed to reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, decreased pesticide spraying and significantly boosted farmers' incomes," said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the report. "The technology has also made important contributions to increasing the yields of many farmers, reducing production risks, improving productivity and raising global production of key crops. The combination of economic and environmental benefit delivery is therefore making a valuable contribution to improving the sustainability of global agriculture, with these benefits and improvements being greatest in developing countries"
Previewing the findings of the comprehensive study, the key findings are:
• Biotech crops have 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 biotech crops. In 2007, this was equivalent to removing 14.2 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing nearly 6.3 million cars from the road for one year;
• Biotech crops have reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2007) by 359 million kg (-8.8%: equivalent to about 125% of the annual volume of pesticide active ingredient applied to arable crops in the European Union) and as a result decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops by 17.2%;
• Herbicide tolerant biotech crops have facilitated the adoption of no/reduced tillage production systems in many regions, especially South America. This has made important contributions to reducing soil erosion and improving soil moisture levels;
• There have been substantial net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $10.1 billion in 2007 and $44.1 billion for the twelve year period. The farm income gains in 2007 is equivalent to adding 4.4% to the value of global production of the four main biotech crops of soybeans, corn, canola and cotton;
• Of the total farm income benefit, 46.5% ($20.5 billion) has been due to yield gains, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production. Two thirds of the yield gain derive from adoption of insect resistant crops and the balance from herbicide tolerant crops;
• Farmers in developing countries obtained the largest share of the farm income gains in 2007 (58%) and over the twelve year period obtained 50% of the total ($44.1 billion) gains;
• The cost farmers paid for accessing GM technology in 2007 was equal to 24% of the total technology gains (a total of $13.2 billion inclusive of farm income gains ($10.1 billion) plus cost of the technology payable to the seed supply chain ($3.17 billion ));
• For farmers in developing countries the total cost of accessing the technology in 2007 was equal to about 14% of total technology gains, whilst for farmers in developed countries the cost was 34% of the total technology gains. Whilst circumstances vary between countries, 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 reflects factors such as weaker provision and enforcement of intellectual property rights in developing countries;
• Since 1996, biotech traits have added 67.8 million tonnes and 62.4 million tonnes respectively to global production of soybeans and corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 6.85 million tonnes of cotton lint and 4.44 million tonnes of canola;
• Production of soybeans, corn, cotton and canola on the areas planted to biotech crops, in 2007, were respectively +29.8%, +7.6%, +19.8% and +8.5% higher than levels would have otherwise been if GM technology had not been used by farmers;
• If GM technology had not been available to the (12 million) farmers using the technology in 2007, maintaining global production levels at the 2007 levels would have required additional plantings of 5.9 million ha of soybeans, 3 million ha of corn, 2.5 million ha of cotton and 0.3 million ha of canola. This total area requirement is equivalent to about 6% of the arable land in the US, or 23% of the arable land in Brazil.
For additional information, contact Graham Brookes. Tel 00 44 (0) 1531 650123 www.pgeconomics.co.uk