Study Finds Brazilian Biotech Offers Significant Grower Benefits

Study updates economic and social-environmental benefits of adopting transgenics, with reduced water use and pesticide application

Published on: Jan 23, 2013

The Brazilian Association of Seeds and Seedlings, ABRASEM, on Tuesday released the sixth edition of studies on the economic and social-environmental impacts of the adoption of biotechnology on Brazilian crops.

According to the analysis, prepared by Celeres and Celeres Ambiental, the grower of a crop of 50 hectares (about 123 acres) of insect-resistant corn has already earned an additional return of up to $100,400 since this technology was commercialized in Brazil.

The projection is that over the next ten years, this same grower will see an increase of $324,100 in earnings, chiefly due to the increase of productivity that the technology provides.

Evaluating the overall picture for biotechnology in Brazil, taking into account the three crops with transgenic varieties that have already been approved and are in commercial production – corn, soybeans and cotton – the results are also significant.  With the prospect of the approval of new technologies, greater adoption by growers and enhancements of the existing technology, the total economic benefit from the adoption of transgenics in the next ten years should come to $118.2 billion, with 82% of this amount going to the grower.

Study updates economic and social-environmental benefits of adopting transgenics, with reduced water use and pesticide application
Study updates economic and social-environmental benefits of adopting transgenics, with reduced water use and pesticide application

"ABRASEM has sought to bring results closer to the reality of Brazilian farmers, primarily family farms," explains farmer and ABRASEM President, Narciso Barison Neto.

Productivity gains yield good results and stimulate competitiveness

Another highlight of the study is gains in productivity, which turned out to be the key factor in economic benefits generated for growers, surpassing the reduction of production costs, a dominant factor in earlier studies. This change could also be attributed to the good results for agriculture accruing from the adoption of transgenic corn.

"Analyzing the economic results that the adoption of biotechnology has achieved for Brazilian agriculture in the last 16 years, as well as prospects for the next ten years, it becomes essential to improve and continue to oversee public policies to ensure a favorable environment for the development of biotechnology in Brazil," explains Anderson Galvao, managing partner at Celeres and coordinator of the economic study.

Study Finds Brazilian Biotech Offers Significant Grower Benefits

For Barison, the study shows that investment in biotechnology is good for growers.

"[T]his is all the more important when we think of keeping up the competitiveness of national agricultural production, at a time when expectations of growing world demand for food are taking over the local and international discussion," he notes.

"The case of corn is the most striking example of the leap in profitability and environmental impact that biotechnology can offer to growers.  And the impacts of this adoption are even more discernible for small and medium growers, whose competitiveness is improving," Barison adds.

Environmental benefits

The study also presents the benefits of biotechnology for the environment and the sustainability of Brazilian agribusiness over the past 16 years – since the arrival of the first genetically modified seeds in Brazil – as well as for the next ten years, taking into consideration factors such as water use, diesel consumption, carbon emissions and the use of pesticides.

The projected benefit with regard to water use for the period from 2012-13 to 2021-22 is 167.4 billion liters of water that would cease to be used on crops with the adoption of biotechnology.  This volume could supply a population of 3.8 million people.

The amount of diesel fuel used in agricultural machinery for transgenic crops will also see a significant reduction over the next ten years that could be as high as 1.4 billion liters, enough to supply a fleet of 581,200 light vehicles. For carbon emissions resulting from the use of diesel oil, it is projected that about 3.7 million tons of CO2 would not be released into the atmosphere, which is the equivalent of preserving 27.3 million trees.

"The level of benefits increases as growers accelerate the adoption of biotechnology, a tool that is capable of contributing more sustainable farming practices that reduce pressure on natural resources," explains Paula Carneiro, director of Celeres Ambiental and coordinator of the social-environmental study.

This is the sixth edition of a study monitoring the benefits of biotechnology for Brazilian agriculture, which has been conducted annually for ABRASEM since 2008.  The evaluation is divided between economic benefits, analyzed by Celeres, and social-environmental benefits, addressed by Celeres Ambiental.

These companies monitor the adoption of transgenics in agriculture. The results are based on field research and interviews with more than 360 growers of soybeans, corn and cotton scattered all over the country. These are the three crops in Brazil with approved GM events that are already available on the market.

Read the full studies on economic benefits and social-environmental benefits.