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Think Organic Farming is Better for the Environment? Think Again.

April 24, 2013
brookes_pfThe eighth annual Global Impacts Study released this week by PG Economics quantifies the environmental benefits gained from the use of biotech crops.

“We’ve seen a significant reduction in the use of chemical insecticides with biotech crops,” said Dr. Cathleen Enright, BIO’s executive vice president for food and agriculture. “Since 1996 and the advent of agricultural biotechnology, farmers growing these crops have switched to more benign herbicides to help control weeds.”

Enright adds, “The shift to no till cropping systems associated with the use of biotech crops has reduced on-farm fuel use, enhanced soil quality and significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.”

Some of the key environmental benefits detailed in the Global Impact Study include:

  • 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 2011, this was equivalent to removing 23 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 10.2 million cars from the road for one year.

  •  Crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2011) by 474 million kg (-9%).As a result, the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops decreased by 18.1 percent.

Possibly even more significant has been biotechnology’s economic benefits for farmers – most of whom are small holder farms in developing countries where increase in farmer income have helped to sustain entire villages.

“Biotech crops have enabled farmers around the world to increase their incomes and yields,” said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics and co-author of the report.  “The economic benefits for farmers who use biotech seeds amounted to an average of more than $130/hectare (approx. $320 per acre) in 2011.”

Some of the key economic benefits detailed in the Global Impact Study include:

  • Farmers who use improved seeds and grow biotech crops have seen substantial net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $19.8 billion in 2011 and $98.2 billion for the 16 year (1996-2011) period.

  • Of the total farm income benefit, 49 percent ($48 billion) has been due to  yield gains, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production.

To download the full report, GM Crops:  Global Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts 1996-2011, visit 

Click here for our full-color fact sheet.