GM CROPS UP FARM INCOME

WIDESPREAD PLANTING of GM crops in the USA last year led to increased yields, higher farmer income, reduced pesticide use and a greater use of zero-tillage farming, according to a new study.

Prepared by the Washington-based National Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy, the report shows that, compared with conventional crops, US farmers generated an extra $1.9bn income by growing GM crops, and used 21,000t less pesticide in the process.

“Plant biotechnology continues to produce real gains for growers and promotes sustainable agriculture in the USA,” said report author Sujatha Sankula.

“The new technology is creating widespread economic and environmental benefits.”

Increased Income Compared with a similar study in 2001, the NCFAP found that biotech varieties had increased grower income by 27%, yields by 41% and cut production costs by 25%. The US area down to six GM crops had increased by 26m acres over the two-year period.

“The insect resistant trait led to the highest yield gains,” said the report. “But herbicide tolerant varieties accounted for 81% of the additional income biotech crops generated for farmers.”

GM technology also helped reduce cultivations, with the area of no-till cotton up 300% since 1996.

“No-till practices prevent the release of greenhouse gases, reducing the potential for global warming.”

The report, Impacts on US Agriculture of Biotechnology-Derived Crops, can be found at www.ncfap.org.