Report shows increasing benefits of biotechnology
LONDON-- Farmers using improved seeds and biotech crop varieties continue to see significant economic and environmental benefits, according to the seventh annual report on crop biotechnology prepared by the United Kingdom-based PG Economics. The farm income gains in developing countries in 2010 were particularly striking, according to Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics and co-author of the report.
The benefits of biotechnology to the environment, especially in poorer countries, are equally remarkable, he noted.
"The environment in user countries is benefiting from farmers using more benign herbicides or replacing insecticide use with insect resistant [biotech] crops," said Brookes. "The reduction in pesticide spraying and the switch to no-till cropping systems is also resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of these benefits are found in developing countries."
U.S. farmers use biotechnology for the same reasons as the growers Brookes is focusing on, said Kevin Richards, American Farm Bureau Federation biotechnology specialist.
"The report's findings read like a textbook checklist for the benefits of biotechnology. With their built-in resistance to pests,biotech seeds require fewer chemicals, which is better for the environment and more cost-effective for growers," Richards said."Also, for many biotech crops, farmers don't have to till the soil,which helps keep carbon in the ground and fuel in the farm machinery tank."
According to the report, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions due to the use of biotech crops in 2010 was equivalent to taking8.6 million cars off the road for one year.
In that same year, the farm-level net economic benefits from planting biotech crops amounted to $14 billion, with 55percent of those farm income gains going to growers in developing countries.
Of the total farm income benefit, 60 percent has been due to yield gains, with the balance arising fromreductions in the cost of production.
The importance of growing more food on less land goes beyond farm income, said Cathleen Enright, executive vice president for food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
"The advantages of advanced seed technology for farmers in developing countries come at a time when food availability is becoming more of an issue around the world," she said. "The population continues to grow, but for many farmers, their ability to produce food remains stuck in the past. In order to double food production by 2050 to meet demand, new seed technologies must be utilized."