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Issue No. 13, Article 2/June 19, 2009

New Report on GM Crops Available: Significant Economic and Environmental Impacts Achieved by Farmers Since Mid-1990s

A report titled GM Crops: Global Socio-economic and Environmental Impacts 1996-2007 was published in May by Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot, PG Economics Ltd., United Kingdom. The full document (128 pages) is available at www.pgeconomics.co.uk/pdf/2009globalimpactstudy.pdf (Adobe PDF). The report provides a thorough global analysis and review of the socioeconomic and environmental impacts made by transgenic crops since their commercial introduction. Below are some highlights from the "Executive Summary and Conclusions" that begins on page 7.

  • "In 2007, the direct global farm income benefit from biotech crops was $10.1 billion. This is equivalent to having added 4.4% to the value of global production of the four main crops of soybeans, maize, canola and cotton."
  • "Since 1996, farm incomes have increased by $44.1 billion."
  • From Table 1 (p. 8): Global farm income benefits from 1996 to 2007 attributed to transgenic crops: GM herbicide-tolerant soybeans, $21.8 billion; GM herbicide-tolerant maize, $1.5 billion; GM insect-resistant maize, $5.7 billion.
  • From Table 2 (p. 9): United States farm income benefits from 1996 to 2007 attributed to transgenic crops: GM herbicide-tolerant soybeans, $10.4 billion; GM herbicide-tolerant maize, $1.4 billion; GM insect-resistant maize, $4.8 billion.
  • From page 11: "In relation to the nature and size of biotech crop adopters, there is clear evidence that size of farm has not been a factor affecting the use of the technology. Both large and small farmers have adopted biotech crops. Size of operation has not been a barrier to adoption. In 2007, 12 million farmers were using the technology globally, 90% plus of which were resource-poor farmers in developing countries."
  • From page 13: "Since 1996, the use of pesticides on the biotech crop area was reduced by 359 million kg of active ingredient (8.8% reduction), and the overall environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops was reduced by 17.2%."
  • From page 15: "Reduced fuel use from less frequent herbicide or insecticide applications and a reduction in the energy use in soil cultivation. The fuel savings associated with making fewer spray runs (relative to conventional crops) and the switch to conservation, reduced and no-till farming systems, have resulted in permanent savings in carbon dioxide emissions. In 2007 this amounted to about 1,144 million kg (arising from reduced fuel use of 416 million litres). Over the period 1996 to 2007 the cumulative permanent reduction in fuel use is estimated at 7,090 kg of carbon dioxide (arising from reduced fuel use of 2,578 million litres)."

I encourage readers of the Bulletin to review this impressive report. My very brief summary here barely skims the surface. In short, the benefits, both economic and environmental, that have taken place since the commercialization of transgenic crops are very impressive and are of increasing global significance. Continuing stewardship (adherence to resistant management protocols and use of refuges) of these transgenic crops to prevent the evolution of resistant pests is paramount in securing the longevity of this technology.--Mike Gray

Author:
Mike Gray

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