Study Shows Biotech Crops Good for the Environment

New review of the technology outlines significant impacts of high-tech crops.

Published on: May 21, 2009

A new study adds more evidence to the claim that raising biotech crops contributes to both environmental and economic sustainability, according to PG Economics, a UK-Based firm. The global impact study of ag biotech on the environment looks at farmers' incomes since biotech 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 study, use of biotech crops has contributed to environmental stability in a number of ways including:

Reducing global release of greenhouse gas emissions from ag practices. This results from less fuel use and added soil carbon storage from reduced tillage of biotech crops. In 2007, this was equivalent to removing about 8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or the equivalent of taking 6.3 million cars off the road for a year.

Reducing the need for pesticide spraying. From 1996 through 2007, global pesticide applications fell by about 700 million pounds, or 8.8% - which is about 125% of all the pesticide active ingredient used in the European Union. The study also asserts that the global environmental impact was to cut herbicide and insecticide use by 17.2%.

Providing substantial net economic benefits at the farm level. Those gains added up to about $10.1 billion in 2007 and $44.1 billion for the 12-year period since the technology was introduced to the market. Farm income gains in 2007 are the same as adding 4.4% of the value of global production of the four main biotech crops of soybeans, corn, canola and cotton. Of the total farm income benefit, the report notes 46.5% has been due to yield gains, with the rest coming from reduced costs.

You can download the full report at www.pgeconomics.co.uk.