Biotech Updates

Environmental and Economic Impact of GM Crop Use from 1996 to 2020

October 26, 2022

GM Crops & Food published three peer-reviewed and open-access papers about the economic and environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops from 1996 to 2020. These research articles are authored by Graham Brookes, agricultural economist and director of PG Economics.

The first paper tackles the global environmental impact of GM crops with pesticide use change. GM crops with herbicide tolerance and insect resistance are the leading technologies that impact pesticide use. With over 24 years of widespread adoption of these technologies, pesticide application has declined by 748.6 million kg (−7.2%) of the active ingredient. This decline has further led to the reduced environmental impact associated with insecticide and herbicide use on these crops (as measured by the indicator, the Environmental Impact Quotient) by a more significant 17.3% between 1996 and 2020.

GM crops have also helped reduce carbon emissions. Widespread adoption of GM crops has led to a significant decrease in on-farm fuel use and helped farmers move from plow-based systems to reduced or no-tillage systems. In 2020, the estimated reduction in carbon emissions was equivalent to taking 15.6 million cars off the road for the year.

Aside from the environmental benefits, Brookes also reported the economic impact of GM crops. GM crop adopters' farm incomes increased by US$261.3 billion US dollars from 1996 to 2020. This is equivalent to a US$112/hectare average farm income gain. The majority (72%) of the gains were due to an increase in yield, while the remaining 28% was attributed to cost savings.

Visit GM Crops & Food for more findings about GM crops' impact on pesticide use, carbon emissions, and farm income.

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