Seed Technology is Vital for Developing Country Farmers
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 22, 2012) – Farmers using improved seeds and biotech crop varieties continue to see significant economic and on-farm environmental benefits, according to the seventh annual report on crop biotechnology impacts prepared by UK-based PG Economics.
According to Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics and co-author of the report, amajority (55 percent) of the 2010 farm income gains went to farmers in developing countries. Ninety percent of these are resource poor on small farms.
“The advantages of advanced seed technology for farmers in developing countries come at a time when food availability is becoming more of an issue around the world,” says Dr. Cathleen Enright, executive vice president for food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
“The population continues to grow, but for many farmers, their ability to produce food remains stuck in the past. In order to double food production by 2050 to meet demand, new seed technologies must be utilized.”
The PG Economics report on crop biotechnology impacts also highlights agricultural biotechnology’s contributions to environmental sustainability.
“Because biotech-enhanced plants have a built-in resistance to pests, growers are using fewer chemical sprays, which is better for the environment. Also, biotech crops thrive without the need for tilling the soil. This uses less fuel on the farm and allows carbon to remain in the soil, enhancing both air and soil quality.”
The PG Economics annual global impacts report quantifies the impact of agricultural biotechnology on the environment and on farmer incomes since biotech’s commercialization in 1996. Among the key findings:
Biotech crops have contributed to significantly reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. This results from less fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from reduced tillage with biotech crops.
In 2010, this was equivalent toremoving 19.4 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 8.6 million cars from the road for one year.
Crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2010) by 438 million kg (-8.6%).
As a result, the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops decreased by 17.9 percent.
Farmers who use improved seeds and grow biotech crops have seen substantial net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $14 billion in 2010 and $78.4. billion for the 15 year (1996-2010) period.
Of the total farm income benefit, 60 percent ($46.8 billion) has been due to yield gains, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production.
Since 1996, biotech traits have added 97.5 million tonnes and 159.4 million tonnes respectively to global production of soybeans and corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 12.5 million tonnes of cotton lint and 6.1 million tonnes of canola.
*To download the full report, GM Crops: Global Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts 1996-2010, visit www.pgeconomics.co.uk