Farmers ‘save billions’ by using GM crops

Farmers across the world who grow genetically-modified crops have saved their businesses more than €3bn (£2.9bn) a year, according to analysis on the technology’s impact.

A report on the socio-economic and environmental impact of GM crops between 1996 and 2009 found the technology saved farmers €46.5bn (£40.8bn) over the 14-year period.

The 173-page Global Biotech Crop Impact report also found that GM crops contributed significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

In 2009, the reduction in carbon was the equivalent of removing 7.8m cars from the road for one year.

Since 1996, GM crops have increased global production of soybeans by 83.5m tonnes, while maize production has increased by 130.5m tonnes.

In addition, the use of pest-resistant GM has also reduced pesticide spraying by 393m kilograms (-8.7%), the report adds.

The reduction has seen a decreased environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops of 17.1%

The impact report says the share of farm income gains, increased yields, reduced energy costs and savings in machinery use over the 14-year period has amounted to around 50% for both farmers in developing and developed countries.

However the report does reveal that the overuse of herbicides like glyphosate in certain regions where GM herbicide tolerant crops are grown has led to the development of weed resistance, with glyphosate resistant weed species emerging in these areas.

Such developments will require important changes in weed management programmes, the report warns.

World plantings of GM crops reached a record 1bn hectares in 2010, with more than 15m farmers across 29 countries using the technology.

Figrues from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications found 10 developed countries – including eight in the EU – planted GM crops.

The United States saw the most plantings with 66.8m ha, followed by Brazil (25.4m), Argentina (22.9m) and India (9.4m).

In the EU, 91.1m ha of MON 18 was planted in 2010 – a fall of just over 3000 ha on the previous year – with Spain the largest grower of the GM crop.

Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics and co-author of the report, said the uptake of the technology “continues to contribute to reducing the release of greenhouse gas from agriculture”.

“[The technology is] decreasing pesticide spraying & significantly boosting farmers’ incomes, especially in the developing countries,” he added.


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