Crop Biotech Update

Sustainable, Profitable and Productive Agriculture Continues to be Boosted by the Contribution of Biotech Crops

April 15, 2011

PG Economics recently released their 2011 Report on GM Crops: Global Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts 1996-2009 and is now available at their website. The Report is the latest of the annual update report of global biotech crop impacts authored by Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot.

"Biotech crop adoption continues to contribute to reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, decreasing pesticide spraying and significantly boosting farmers' incomes, especially in developing countries" said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the report. "The technology has also made important contributions to increasing crop yields, reducing risks, improving productivity and raising global production of key crop."

In summary, 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 2009, this was equivalent to removing 17.7 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 7.8 million cars from the road for one year;
  • Biotech crops have reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2009) by 393 million kg (-8.7%) and as a result decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops by 17.1%;
  • 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 $10.8 billion in 2009 and $64.7 billion for the fourteen year period. The farm income gain in 2009 is equivalent to adding 4.1% to the value of global production of the four main biotech crops of soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton;
  • The share of the farm income gains, both in 2009 and cumulatively (1996-2009), has been about 50% each for farmers in developing and developed countries;
  • The cost farmers paid for accessing GM technology in 2009 was equal to 30% of the total technology gains (a total of $15.3 billion inclusive of farm income gains ($10.8 billion) plus cost of the technology payable to the seed supply chain ($4.5 billion);
  • For farmers in developing countries the total cost of accessing the technology in 2009 was equal to 18% of total technology gains, whilst for farmers in developed countries the cost was 39% of the total technology gains.
  • Since 1996, biotech traits have added 83.5 million tonnes and 130.5 million tonnes respectively to global production of soybeans and corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 10.5 million tonnes of cotton lint and 5.5 million tonnes of canola;
  • If GM technology had not been available to the (14 million) farmers using the technology in 2009, maintaining global production levels at the 2009 levels would have required additional plantings of 3.8 million ha of soybeans, 5.6 million ha of corn, 2.6 million ha of cotton and 0.3 million ha of canola. This total area requirement is equivalent to about 7% of the arable land in the US, or 24% of the arable land in Brazil.

The press release and the full report can be downloaded at http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk.