GM crops aid farmers, citizens and the environment, study says

 Resize text         Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

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.”

DNA The 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%).

Comments (12) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

Kansas  |  May, 02, 2013 at 10:01 AM

If Bt cotton was so good for Indian farmers, why have so many committed suicide over it? "Roundup Ready" corn and soy are resistant to the herbicide Roundup, and this has led to increased spraying of herbicides. More than 20 species of plants have already evolved resistance to Roundup and this is leading to Roundup-resistant weeds, which leads to the use of additional herbicides. Monsanto regularly sues farmers who try to save seed, while not all hybrids are sterile. GMOs have been tested over the short term only, and by the biotechs themselves, not by independent organizations. As Michael Pollan notes, if you buy a bottle of Bt pesticide, it has a warning label because Bt is an EPA-registered pesticide. But Bt corn and other Bt foods are not considered pesticides, but “foods”. In a peer-reviewed, glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup) has been linked to endocrine disruption, which can lead to birth defects and cancer. From the paper, “We previously reported two cases of birth defects in a farmer’s family including imperforate a***, growth hormone deficiencies, hypospadias, heart defect and micro-p****.” [Sorry—this site appears to block these anatomical terms]. The University of Pittsburg reported on how roundup kills amphibians. And for what? The Union of Concerned Scientists found scant evidence that production increases with the use of GMOs. Jeffrey Smith and the UCS are better sources on the health effects of GMOs than a firm that was paid to promote GMOs.

Kentucky  |  May, 02, 2013 at 12:16 PM

In addition to these concerns, in my experience in fact most of the agricultural beneficiaries of GMOs are NOT "resource poor and small farms." It is large growers (esp. of soybeans in Latin America), many of whose crops are perceived to cross fertilize. Even if the latter is not the case, with this comes reliance on the manufacturers for seed, lawsuits if the seed is used outside of contract, and most important, loss of land as small farmers not using GMOs cannot compete in the market. The result is the history of Latin America (and elsewhere) - the large landholders gain while the smallholder loses his land. In addition, this is a new technology, so while there is contested evidence so far of health risks from GMOs, have we not learned anything from the promotion of pesticides and herbicides during the Green Revolution of post W.W.II?

NE  |  May, 02, 2013 at 12:23 PM

One thing to remember is who pays for this report and even the Drovers. It is a free puplication because of all the advertisers in it. Very few are not pharmaceutical or chemical companies. It takes courage to disagree with the money!

IL  |  May, 02, 2013 at 04:05 PM

Then who do you know to trust? If you go to some organic website they may be paid, either by other organic or threw their own profits, to make you believe GM is bad.

Bettendorf, IA  |  May, 02, 2013 at 06:14 PM

The apparent cropping benefits to the farmer for GMO crops are certainly commendable. It is becoming very difficult to answer the growing problems of infertility in humans and livestock, growth of allergies and even unexplained deaths or increased transportation losses to market. Lower immunity and increased resistance are facts we should not have to explain with so much stronger, better and more efficient management and nutritional systems. Why is Europe calling the GMO movement the "purchased truth"? Why does this commercialization take so much "defense" money from the Companies that have the patents? (Over $40 Million was spent on California preposition 37 of labeling food - I for one am not for it either for other reasons) Why are more "band-aids" coming on the market to help make crops "healthier"? The GMO technology is certainly remarkable - the side effects are growing and the public is getting nervous. Let's study the nutritional impacts of these changed crop seeds and the impact of those chemicals like RoundUp! Stop this bullying of being "right" or worse yet, stop playing the game we need this technology for growing enough food for a hungry world. It is still time to THINK and combine good and complete science through biological processes that will assure our Grand Children a healthy future!

Ohio  |  May, 03, 2013 at 08:45 AM

Good grief, I am so sick of enviro-zealots trotting out the same bogus and refuted research over and over again. Environmental groups and those who follow them are the real lemmings, and the enemies of science. These groups are no more independent of the lure of financial gain through individual and corporate donation than corporations and governments. Universities who produce anti-GMO research are bought and paid for by environmental groups. The UCS has an anti-GMO stance at its core. They are biased and research like it. They use low touch words like "concerned" and "potential" in research summaries because it creates fear without needing a solid foundation of evidence. "We're concerned that there may be the potential for harm." No scale other than what the human mind creates. Indian farmers were committing suicide in the mid 1990s before GMOs were allowed. Blaming a greater social ill on GMOs is convenient, but also immoral. Organic growers can spray Bts till the cows come home. Did you know Roundup has been registered since the 1970s? That more than 90% of corn and soybeans have been planted to GMO crops in the US for nearly a decade? How does any person or living thing even still have genitalia at this point? Really? Sorry for the rambling rant. It's exhausting having to constantly wave off this nonsense, but we must fight on because we know the other side will.

Kansas  |  May, 03, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Joe – The rate of suicide among farmers in India has soared with the promotion of GMOs, and you do a disservice to every one of these poor souls, as well as all readers, when you ignore them with a snide suggestion about a proclivity to suicide. You can’t dismiss the substantial body of work by the likes of Engdahl (Seeds of Destruction), Smith (The GMO Trilogy), McKibben (Enough), or Leiner (Bitter Seeds, where she informs us that a farmer in India is committing suicide every 30 minutes) with a few snarky comments. Nor can you ignore the aggressive campaign of lies flailed by Monsanto (see Nor can we overlook the known problems in promoting GMOs (false substanial equivalence claims, allergenicity, animal feeding studies, intrusion onto non-target organisms, emergence of new secondary pests and evolution of resistant pests, increased chemical use, destructive economics), or Monsanto’s aggressive pursuit of legal action against farmers who never planted GMOs. Then read through this: . These authors, among others, discuss evidence of human harm, not simply “concerns”. As a scientist, I can tell you that an expression of concern by the scientific community is a world apart from the expression of concern by your favorite talking head on the 6:00 news. When scientists tell me they are concerned, I listen up. Maybe you'd enlighten us with your peer-reviewed paper that disputes the research suggesting glyphosate exposure led to micro-pee-pees (see for .pdf). Or, just be honest with yourself, if not us, and ask if your position is simply a consequence of your vested interests.

Texas  |  December, 27, 2013 at 09:17 AM

Russian scientist are alarmed and suggesting a 10 year ban of GM crops to study the long term effects....very wise. Another aspect is that you notice the same GM crops listed are also heavily subsidized....what a coincidence! If I could buy non GM corn for my animals I would. You can't find it in our local feed stores.

Texas  |  December, 27, 2013 at 09:26 AM

Monsanto controls the news:

December, 27, 2013 at 11:46 AM

That's why the Government (your taxes) should be paying for this research and not the corporations or the enviros or special interests. But then the Government and taxes are evil and not to be trusted. So there you are sitting in your own puddle of paranoia. Personally I don't have time to read all the bias so I try to weed out and ignore those by following the money before I start reading. Then if I find a "neutral" source (if there is such a thing), I read it and decide myself whether or not the report appears solid in its methods and conclusions. If it does I don't necessarily start touting it as the new facts, but I start watching for more research (good research) on the matter. Be patient and sooner or later a concensus will be reached. In the mean time do what you feel appropriate for your own well being and refrain from bashing others.

December, 27, 2013 at 11:47 AM

at Mathena in IL. test.

Texas  |  December, 28, 2013 at 08:36 AM

good for farmers??? '

FourTrax(R) Foreman 4x4

Honda’s line of all-terrain vehicles has always been the machinery farmers and ranchers counted on for strong, rugged, reliable performance. ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides