Biotechnology has delivered a substantial increase in farm income while providing substantial benefits to both farmers and citizens. That’s the take-away from a new study from United Kingdom-based PG Economics – “GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2011.”

GM crops aid farmers, citizens and the environment, study saysThe study also says crop biotechnology was responsible for producing an additional 110 million tons of soybeans and 195 million tons of corn from 1996 to 2011.

"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," says Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, and 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," Brookes says.

The study examines the impact of the first 16 years of widespread adoption of crop biotechnology, concluding that the technology has “consistently provided important economic and production gains, improved incomes and reduced risk.”

PG Economics, Ltd., is a specialist provider of advisory and consultancy services to agriculture and other natural resource-based industries. The company’s areas of specialization are plant biotechnology, agricultural production systems, agricultural markets and policy.

Some key findings of the report:

  • The net economic benefit at the farm level in 2011 was $19.8 billion.
  • For the 16-year period (1996-2011), the global farm income gain was $98.2 billion.
  • Of the total farm income benefit, 49 % ($48 billion) was due to yield gains resulting from lower pest and weed pressure and improved genetics, with the balance from reductions in the cost of production.
  • The insect resistant 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 the technology was +10.1 percent 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.
  • Between 1996 and 2011, crop biotechnology was responsible for an additional 110 million tons of soybeans and 195 million tons of corn.
  • Without crop biotechnology, maintaining global production at the 2011 levels would have required an additional 5.4 million hectares of soybeans, 6.6 million hectares of corn, 3.3 million hectares of cotton and 0.2 million hectares of canola.
  • Crop biotechnology has contributed to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by reducing fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from reduced tillage.
  • Crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying by 474 million kilograms (-9%).