Biotech Crops Delivering Economic and Environmental Benefits
The 7th annual report on crop biotechnology impacts shows that farmers using improved seeds and biotech crop varieties continue to see significant economic and on-farm environmental benefits. Graham Brookes – Director of UK-based PG Economics and author of the report – says 55-percent of the 2010 farm income gains went to farmers in developing countries. Dr. Cathleen Enright of the Biotechnology Industry Organization notes the advantages of advanced seed technology for farmers in developing countries comes at a time when food availability is becoming more of an issue around the world. In order to double food production by 2050 to meet the demand of a growing population – Enright says new seed technologies must be utilized.
The PG Economoics report highlights the contributions of agricultural biotechnology to environmental sustainability as well. Growers are using fewer chemical sprays because biotech-enhanced plants have a built-in resistance to pests. The biotech crops also thrive without the need for tilling – leading to less fuel use on the farm and allowing carbon to remain in the soil. According to the report – since biotech’s commercialization in 1996 – biotech crops have contributed significantly to reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. In 2010 – reduced tillage was equivalent to removing 8.6-million cars from the road for one year. Pesticide spraying is down 8.6-percent in the 1996 to 2010 time period. The environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops decreased by 17.9-percent.
The report also states the economic benefits at the farm level for farmers using improved seeds and growing biotech crops – 14-billion dollars in 2010 and 78.4-billion for the 15-year period. Sixty-percent of the total farm income benefit is due to yield gains – the remainder from reductions in the cost of production. As for production – biotech traits have added 97.5-million tons and 159.4-million tons respectively to global production of soybeans and corn. The technology has contributed an extra 12.5-million tons of cotton lint and 6.1-million tons of canola.