Posted on June 6, 2013 at 8:00 AM by Iowa Corn
Two interesting articles have recently been published in the “GM Crops and Food” Journal. The first article reviews the global income and production effects of GM crops from 1996-2011, and the second analyzes the environmental impacts of GM crops from 1996-2011. Both articles are written by Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot of PG Economics Ltd. in the UK.
In the first issue of 2013 (Jan – Mar), the article on income and production effects highlights the significant economic benefits that have occurred at the farm level amounting to $19.8 billion worldwide in 2011, and $98.2 billion since 1996. Surprisingly, 51% of these gains were to farmers in developing countries. These economic benefits are the result of a combination of reduced production costs and increased yields. In the U.S., the average farm income benefit resulting from herbicide tolerance was estimated at $8.10 per acre. In terms of crop production, GM technology increased global production of corn by 195 million tonnes (7.6 billion bushels) and 110 million tonnes (4.0 billion bushels) of soybeans since the introduction of these GM crops in the 1990’s. In the U.S., an average corn yield gain of 5.0% was estimated as a result of GM insect resistance hybrids. The complete report can be found here
In the current issue (April-June 2013) of GM Crops and Food, the topic of environmental impact of GM crop use is reviewed. This article focuses on the impact crop biotechnology has had on changes in pesticide use and greenhouse gas emissions as a result of GM crops. It was estimated that GM technology has reduced pesticide spraying by 474 million kg, a decrease of 8.9%. It also estimated that the decreased environmental impact of this, as measured by the Environmental Impact Quotient, by 18.1%. In the U.S., there has been a 10.9% decrease in herbicide use as a result of herbicide tolerant GM corn, measured as active ingredient. There has a been a huge 41.9% decrease in insecticide use as a result of insect resistant GM corn during the 1996-2011 timeframe. GM technology has also helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which in 2011 alone was equivalent to removing 10.2 million cars from the road. This results from less fuel usage by making less passes through the field with equipment and more carbon sequestration by reduced cultivation of the soil as a result of better weed control. The complete report can be found here
GM crops offer both environmental and economic advantages that benefit not only the farmers but the consumers who rely on a more abundant food supply and cleaner environment.David Ertl is the Technology Commercialization Manager for Iowa Corn. He is responsible for developing new technology, obtaining intellectual property (patents) and out-licensing of technology to commercial providers. Prior to joining Iowa Corn, he was a Corn Breeder and later a Research Director at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. He has been involved in developing commercial corn hybrids, is an inventor on 13 patents and has managed various research programs. David has a Ph.D. in plant breeding from Iowa State University.