Smallholder tillage farmers in developing countries are among the biggest beneficiaries of agricultural biotechnology, according to a report released this week by the UK-based agri consultancy service PG Economics.
The work highlights the continued gains in yield and producer income, as well as reductions in pesticide use and greenhouse gas emissions, due to increasing adoption of genetically-modified (GM) technologies by farmers around the world.
“The positive findings were fully anticipated by all of us who follow biotechnology issues,” said the US Grain Council’s Dean Taylor.
“We see the benefits on our own farms. Whether you are growing corn in Iowa, cotton in India, soybeans in Brazil or canola in Canada, the on-farm results speak for themselves. Farmers understand the benefits. But getting the word out to the public continues to be a challenge.”
The report noted that global plantings of the four leading GM crops (maize, soybeans, cotton and oilseed rape) continued to grow in 2013 to a record 168.5m hectares. That’s an area larger than all U.S. crop land combined.
Analysis contained within the report confirms that the net economic benefit of crop biotechnology at the farm level in 2013 was $20.5 billion. This figure was divided almost equally between farmers in developed and developing countries.
The report also documented major environmental benefits from biotechnology, including 2013 reductions in pesticide use of 550 million kilos. This is equivalent to removing 12.4 million cars from the road. It also points to GM technology helping farmers grow more with less. The increased yield from biotechnology in the four leading GM crops in 2013 would have required an increase in land planted to non-GMO crops equivalent to 32% of the total cereal growing area in the European Union.