Sustainable Farming Provided by Biotech Crops

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Wednesday, May 20, 2009) - Farmers around the world are growing more crops in a more environmentally sustainable manner according to a report issued today by the UK-based PG Economics.  

“Once again, the Global Impact Study shows that agricultural biotechnology contributes to both environmental and economic sustainability,” says Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, executive vice president for food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).  “This report affirms that agriculture productivity and environmental protection do – in fact – go hand in hand.”  

The PG Economics annual Global Impact Study quantifies the impact of agricultural biotechnology on the environment and on farmer incomes since biotech’s commercialization in 1996.

“As we continue to see the global adoption of biotech crops, we are also seeing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and a decreased need for pesticide spraying,” says Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the report. “A record 13.3 million farmers in 25 countries are using agricultural biotechnology.  These farmers are seeing increased yields and improved productivity, and they are enjoying gains in incomes as a result.” 

According to the Global Impact Study, the use of biotech crops has contributed significantly to environmental sustainability by:  

·         reducing the global release 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 2007, this was equivalent to removing 14.2 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing nearly 6.3 million cars from the road for one year;

·         reducing the need for pesticide spraying.
-        For the years 1996-2007, global pesticide applications were reduced by 359 million kg (-8.8 percent: equal to about 125 percent of the annual volume of pesticide active ingredient applied to arable crops in the European Union)
-        As a result, the global environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted with biotech crops decreased by 17.2 percent.

“Biotech crops produced for food and biofuels carry an added environmental benefit as we deal with climate change,” says Maria Gabriela Cruz, a grower from Portugal.  “Biotechnology allows farmers to use conservation agriculture practices that leave crop residue on the surface to fight water and wind erosion. Biotech crops also allow a significant carbon sink in the soil.” 

The use of biotech crops has contributed significantly to economic sustainability by:  

·         providing substantial net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $10.1 billion in 2007 and $44.1 billion for the twelve year period.
-        The farm income gains in 2007 are equivalent to adding 4.4 percent to the value of global production of the four main biotech crops of soybeans, corn, canola and cotton.
-        Of the total farm income benefit, 46.5 percent ($20.5 billion) has been due to yield gains, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production.  

“As a believer on modern farming technology, I was one of the pioneer farmers who planted biotech corn in 2003,” says Rosalie Ellasus, a Philippine grower.  “From then, I was able to experience the benefits brought about by biotech farming such as increased yields and lower production costs.”  

The use of biotech crops has helped to increase productivity and crop yields. According to the Global Impact Study:
·         Soybean production on the areas planted with biotech crops in 2007 was 29.8 percent higher than levels would have otherwise been if biotechnology had not been used by farmers.
-         Corn production on the areas planted with biotech crops in 2007 was 7.6 percent higher than levels would have otherwise been if biotechnology had not been used;
·         Cotton production on the areas planted with biotech crops in 2007 was 19.8 percent higher than levels would have otherwise been if biotechnology had not been used; and
·         Canola production on the areas planted with biotech crops in 2007 was 8.5 percent higher than levels would have otherwise been if biotechnology had not been used.

“Because of biotechnology, we’re able to feed more people with less farmland than ever before,” says Terry Wanzek, a farmer from North Dakota.  “Biotechnology enhances production efficiency and creates a more plentiful supply of safe, reliable and affordable food for a hungry world.  In the years ahead, our capabilities will do nothing but improve.”

*To download the full report, visit
www.pgeconomics.co.uk  

**Editor’s note:  Graham Brookes, Gabriela Cruz, Rosalie Ellasus and Terry Wanzek will be available for interviews in person or by phone on Wednesday and Thursday, May 20-21, 2009.  Please contact Karen Batra at kbatra@bio.org or 202-246-0593 to make arrangements for an interview. 

 

About BIO

BIO represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world.

Upcoming BIO Events

BIO Human Resources Conference
May 17-19, 2009
Atlanta, GA

2009 BIO International Convention
May 18-21, 2009
Atlanta, Ga.

BioEquity Europe
June 9-10, 2009
Munich, Germany

World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing
July 19-22, 2009
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

 

About BIO

BIO represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world.

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About BIO
BIO is the world's largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world. BIOtechNOW is BIO's blog chronicling “innovations transforming our world” and the BIO Newsletter is the organization’s bi-weekly email newsletter. Subscribe to the BIO Newsletter.