Thursday, November 19, 2009

Biotech's Contributions

Biotech crops making important contributions to food production & sustainable farming

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 22:44
PG Economics

In the light of ongoing world food security, agricultural sustainability and climate change debates, PG Economics has released three summary documents of the yield, income and environmental effects of biotech crops . These summaries are supplemented by more detailed examinations of these impacts in the latest report on the global socio-economic and environmental impacts of the technology 1996-2007 .

The three summaries document the real contribution of biotech crops to; improving global crop yields, increasing production (and estimated contributions to food security), improving farm income and reducing the environment ‘footprint’ of agriculture.

Key impacts are:

• Biotech crops have contributed to significantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. In 2007, this was equivalent to removing 14.2 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing nearly 6.3 million cars from the road for one year;

• A reduction in pesticide spraying (1996-2007) of 359 million kg (equivalent to 125% of the annual volume of pesticide active ingredient applied to arable crops in the European Union);

• There have been substantial net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $10.1 billion in 2007 and $44.1 billion for the twelve year period. The farm income gains in 2007 is equivalent to adding 4.4% to the value of global production of the four main biotech crops of soybeans, corn, canola and cotton;

• Of the total farm income benefit, 46.5% ($20.5 billion) has been due to yield gains, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production;

• Farmers in developing countries obtained the largest share of the farm income gains in 2007 (58%) and over the twelve year period obtained 50% of the total ($44.1 billion) gains. Developing country farmers have also seen the largest increases in farm income on a per hectare basis from using the technology;

• Since 1996, biotech traits have added 67.8 million tonnes and 62.4 million tonnes respectively to global production of soybeans and corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 6.85 million tonnes of cotton lint and 4.44 million tonnes of canola;

• The average yield gains across the global area planted to biotech insect resistant corn and cotton (1996-2007) were over 6% and 13% respectively. The highest yield gains have been experienced by developing country farmers;

• The additional production arising from biotech crops (1996-2007) has contributed enough energy (in kcal terms) to feed about 402 million people for a year (additional production in 2007 contributed enough energy to feed 88 million, similar to the annual requirement of the population of the Philippines);

• If GM technology had not been available to the (12 million) farmers using the technology in 2007, maintaining global production levels at the 2007 levels would have required additional plantings of 5.9 million ha of soybeans, 3 million ha of corn, 2.5 million ha of cotton and 0.3 million ha of canola. This total area requirement is equivalent to about 6% of the arable land in the US, or 23% of the arable land in Brazil. Link

Here are some very interesting numbers that show how much modern agricultural techniques have improved our ability to produce food and fiber. With a limited amount of natural resources, specifically land, available on this planet, we must continue to improve our efficiency and productivity.

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