A recent review of biotech, or GM (GMO), crops shows that they offer major environmental benefits and allow farmers to grow more acres with fewer resources. In the 17 years of adoption, genetically modified crops delivered more environmentally friendly farming practices while providing clear improvements to farmer productivity, says Graham Brookes, co-author of the PG Economics report.
Highlights of the report include:
Crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2012) by 503 million kg (-8.8%). This is equal to the total amount of pesticide active ingredient applied to arable crops in the EU 27 for nearly two crop years. As a result, this has decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops by 18.7%2.
Between 1996 and 2012, crop biotechnology was responsible for an additional 122 million tons of soybeans and 231 million tons of corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 18.2 million tons of cotton lint and 6.6 million tons of canola.
GM crops are allowing farmers to grow more without using additional land. If crop biotechnology had not been available to the (17.3 million) farmers using the technology in 2012, maintaining global production levels at the 2012 levels would have required additional plantings of 4.9 million ha of soybeans, 6.9 million ha of corn, 3.1 million ha of cotton and 0.2 million ha of canola. This total area requirement is equivalent to 9% of the arable land in the US, or 24% of the arable land in Brazil or 27% of the cereal area in the EU (28).
Crop biotechnology continues to be a good investment for farmers around the world. The cost farmers paid for accessing crop biotechnology in 2012 ($5.6 billion4 5 payable to the seed supply chain) was equal to 23% of the total gains (a total of $24.4 billion inclusive of the $18.8 billion income gains). Globally, farmers received an average of $3.33 for each dollar invested in GM crop seeds.
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