Farmers in developing countries have the most to gain from using GMO crops, according to an annual report from PG Economics which documents gains in yield and producer income, as well as reductions in pesticide use and greenhouse gas emissions, due to adoption of GMO crops globally.
The report – GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2013 – noted that global plantings of the four leading GM crops (corn, soybeans, cotton and canola) continued to grow in 2013 to a record 416 million acres.
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"[GM] technology has continued to provide more productive agriculture, higher incomes to farmers and a better environment for citizens," said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the report. "A majority of these benefits continue to go to farmers and rural communities in developing countries."
The net economic benefit of crop biotechnology at the farm level in 2013 was $20.5 billion, for a cumulative total of $133.5 billion since 1996. This total was divided almost equally between farmers in developed and developing countries.
The report documented major environmental benefits from biotechnology, including 2013 reductions in pesticide use of 1.2 billion pounds or 600,000 tons. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions thanks to biotech were equivalent to removing 12.4 million cars from the road.
GM technology is also 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 11% of the total arable land in the United States, or 29% of the total arable land in Brazil, or 32% of the total cereal growing area in the European Union.
"There is a lot of misunderstanding about today's agriculture," said Dean Taylor U.S. Grains Council's Biotechnology Advisory Team leader. "Some modern technology like large scale equipment and GPS-driven precision farming is financially out of reach for small farmers in the developing world, but biotechnology is scale neutral."