This post was originally published on GMO Answers' Medium page.
Recognizing Two Decades of Biotechnology in Agriculture: Measuring the Economic and Environmental Benefits of GM Crops
Since 1974, the United Nations has hosted World Environment Day annually on June 5 — the organization’s most important day to inspire action and awareness for the protection of our environment. Since its inception, World Environment Day has grown to a global platform for public outreach that is celebrated widely in over 100 countries around the world. Each World Environment Day is organized around a theme that focuses attention on a particularly pressing environmental concern. The theme for 2017 is connecting people to nature.
As we think about this year’s theme, what closer connection do we have to nature than the food we eat?
Today, a new report was released that outlines the dramatic economic and environmental benefits of biotechnology in agriculture over the past 20 years. The 2017 PG Economics study found that crop biotechnology has significantly reduced agriculture’s environmental impact and contributed to preserving the earth’s natural resources, while boosting the global economy by allowing farmers to grow more, high-quality crops. GMO Answers took a closer look at the study, and found five key takeaways on how GMOs benefit our environment and the economy:
1. Reduce Agriculture’s Environmental Impact
According to the report, GM crops have helped farmers adopt more sustainable practices that have significantly reduced agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. These practices include reduced tillage, a farming practice that decreases the burning of fossil fuels to retain more carbon in the soil. The report concludes that without biotech crops in 2015, an additional 26.7 billion kg (58.9 billion lbs) of carbon dioxide would have entered the atmosphere — the equivalence of adding more than 11.9 million cars to the road!
2. Help Conserve Land & Contribute To Global Food Security
Biotech crops allow farmers to grow more without using additional land. The report found that in 2015, farmers would have needed to plant an additional 8.4 million hectares (20.8 million acres) of soybeans, 7.4 million hectares (18.3 million acres) of corn, 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of cotton, and 0.7 million hectares (1.7 million acres) of canola without the use of crop biotechnology — totaling the equivalent of needing 11 percent of the arable land in the United States.
3. Enable Farmers To Increase Crop Yields Insect resistant (IR) and herbicide tolerant (HT) technologies have allowed farmers to deliver higher crop yields. IR soybeans grown commercially in South
America since 2013 are providing farmers with an average 9.6 percent yield improvement through reduced pest damage. In Argentina, farmers are utilizing HT technology to improve weed control, allowing them to grow and reap benefits from an additional soybean crop after wheat in the same growing season.
4. Support Improved Livelihoods
Especially in developing countries, crop biotechnology helps farmers provide better lives for themselves and their families by earning higher incomes with increased crop yields. The study reported that in 2015, the net farm level economic benefit was $15.5 billion, or an increased income of about $90/hectare ($36/acre), and from 1996 to 2015, global farm incomes increased $167.7 billion.
5. Contribute To Global Economic Success
For over two decades, crop biotechnology continues to be a good investment for millions of farmers around the world. In 2015, farmers paid $6.3 billion to leverage crop biotechnology, a number equal to 29 percent of the total gains of $21.8 billion. Globally, for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds, farmers earned an average extra $3.45. This technology is particularly important in developing countries, where farmers received $5.15 for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds. This study is further proof that biotechnology will continue to be a valuable asset not only to the farming community, but the global environment and economy. Have questions about the study or GMOs? Visit GMOAnswers.com to learn more.