While the cost of food is impacted by various factors (the price of oil affects transportation costs; temperature changes can cause drought; etc.), GMOs play an important role in keeping those prices as low as possible. It’s estimated that corn-based products would be priced 6 percent higher and soybean-based products would be 10 percent higher if GM crops were not grown, according to a 2010 study by Graham Brookes et al.
Graham Brookes, an agricultural economist with PG Economics Ltd., recently answered the question “Are GMOs increasing the price of food?” He highlights several production-oriented advantages of GM crops. Here is an excerpt from his response:
“The main reason why biotech (GM) crops have contributed to reducing the cost of food stems from the nature of the technology adopted. The technology adopted to date has largely been productivity-enhancing and cost-reducing technology. This means additional global production has arisen from use of the technology, equal to an extra 122 million tonnes of soybeans, 237 million tonnes of corn, 18 million tonnes of cotton lint and 6.6 million tonnes of canola in the period 1996–2012. At the same time, the cost of producing these crops using this technology has typically been lower than the cost of producing the same crops using conventional technology, because of savings to the amount spent on inputs such as pesticides and fuel. These savings have usually more than offset the additional cost farmers have incurred for buying GM seeds, so that, when added to the extra income arising from higher yields, the net farm income benefit from using GM technology has been equal to $116.6 billion (1996–2012).
“Assessing the precise impact of these GM agronomic, cost-saving technologies—such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance—on the prices of soybeans, maize, cotton and canola (and derivatives) is difficult. Current and past prices reflect a multitude of factors, of which the introduction and adoption of new, cost-saving technologies is one. This means that estimating the effect of different variables on prices is far from easy.
“In general terms, it is important to recognize that the real price of food and feed products has fallen consistently during the last 50 years. This has come about not ‘out of the blue’ but from enormous improvements in productivity by producers. These productivity improvements have arisen from the adoption of new technologies and techniques.”
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