Biotechnology is among key forces reshaping world agriculture, enabling increased crop yields and productivity despite limited available land, and leading to better quality and lower priced food products for consumers.
That's according to a new report from North Dakota State University, "Forces Reshaping World Agriculture," authored by Jeremy Mattson and Won Koo of NDSU's Center for Agricultural Policy and Trade Studies.
The authors point out that growth of agriculture in the United States is dependent on productivity increases. Since there is little land available for expansion of agricultural production in the U.S., growth in production will require increased yields. Export competitiveness is also dependent on relative productivity growth against major competitors.
Future productivity growth will be influenced by current and future research, especially public research. "New developments that could lead to further productivity increases include improved technologies for nutrient, soil, water, and pest management; precision agriculture; and agricultural biotechnology," the report says. "The emergence of biotechnology could especially have a significant impact on productivity worldwide."
Farmers benefit from the use of GM crops through increased weed and insect control, which could lead to increased yields and decreased pesticide costs. Mattson and Koo report that despite some consumer concern, the biotechnology trend is likely to continue as it leads to productivity gains for farmers. "The introduction of GM wheat has been delayed, largely due to concern that consumers in export markets will not accept it, but it could eventually be adopted," they write.
While current biotech crops have been developed mainly to improve agricultural production, future biotech crops could be introduced that have qualities such as increased nutritional content or other characteristics that would benefit consumers. "Consumer response to the further adoption of biotech crops is uncertain, but it may become more favorable as these crops are developed with more obvious benefits for consumers." Developing countries could benefit the most from biotechnology through productivity gains and improved nutritional content of crops such as golden rice.
Mattson and Koo point out that while technological advances appear to initially benefit producers by leading to higher yields, lower costs, and increased productivity, consumers ultimately benefit from lower real food prices.
The entire NDSU report can be found as a PDF online at agecon.lib.umn.edu/cgi-bin/detailview.pl?paperid=21789.