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Study: GM Crops Continue to Offer Yield, Income and Environmental Gains
Time:22 May 2015
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May 21, 2015

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Smallholder farmers in developing countries are among the biggest beneficiaries of agricultural biotechnology, which continues to offer yield and environmental benefits around the globe.

That?ˉs the conclusion of a highly-respected annual report released this week by PG Economics that documents the continued gains in yield and producer income, as well as reductions in pesticide use and greenhouse gas emissions, due to increasing adoption of genetically-modified (GM) technologies by farmers around the world.

?°The positive findings were fully anticipated by all of us who follow biotechnology issues,?± said Dean Taylor, an Iowa farmer who leads the U.S. Grains Council?ˉs Biotechnology Advisory Team.

?°We see the benefits on our own farms. Whether you are growing corn in Iowa, cotton in India, soybeans in Brazil or canola in Canada, the on-farm results speak for themselves. Farmers understand the benefits. But getting the word out to the public continues to be a challenge.?±

The report ¨CGM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2013¨C noted that global plantings of the four leading GM crops (corn, soybeans, cotton and canola) continued to grow in 2013 to a record 168.5 million hectares (416 million acres). That?ˉs an area larger than all U.S. crop land combined, and more than four times larger than the U.S. area planted to corn, the highest acreage U.S. crop.

The net economic benefit of crop biotechnology at the farm level in 2013 was $20.5 billion, for a cumulative total of $133.5 billion since 1996. Importantly, this total was divided almost equally between farmers in developed and developing countries.

?°There is a lot of misunderstanding about today?ˉs agriculture,?± Taylor said. ?°Some modern technology like large scale equipment and GPS-driven precision farming is financially out of reach for small farmers in the developing world, but biotechnology is scale neutral. In fact, the study shows that small farmers in developing countries actually receive a slightly higher benefit from biotech in percentage terms.?±

The report documented major environmental benefits from biotechnology, including 2013 reductions in pesticide use of 550 million kg (1.2 billion pounds or 600,000 tons). Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions thanks to biotech were equivalent to removing 12.4 million cars from the road.

GM technology is also helping farmers grow more with less. The increased yield from biotechnology in the four leading GM crops in 2013 would have required an increase in land planted to non-GMO crops equivalent to 11 percent of the total arable land in the United States, or 29 percent of the total arable land in Brazil, or 32 percent of the total cereal growing area in the European Union. As land and water constraints become increasingly significant around the world, sustainable intensification through technology is essential in meeting growing global food demand.

Despite the clear benefits of biotechnology, regulatory barriers continue to impede trade of grains derived from GM crops. The Council is committed to working with policy makers and policy influencers to remove those barriers and develop biotechnology policies that are science-based, risk-appropriate and consistent. Such policy guidelines make it easier to originate grain from more sources, ensuring a reliable supply for feed and food uses, lower costs and enhanced diets.

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