Precision Crop Technology Proves Sustainability

Kurt LawtonAg Group, Conservation, Corn, Education, Research, sustainability

While anti-agriculture naysayers continue to blast away at GM crops as the end of the world, it’s our duty to offer sound science to the discussion.

To this end, a recent study by the British-based PG Economics offers some statistics on the value of biotech crops…as discussed in a recent Nebraska Corn Kernels blog post.

Biotech crops help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the use of pesticides – in addition to increasing yields for many farmers while reducing production risk, according to a study released this week.

In other words, biotech crops help farmers produce more with less – and that’s good on the sustainability front.

Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics and co-author of the report, had this to say:

Since 1996, biotech crop adoption has contributed to reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, decreased pesticide spraying and significantly boosted farmers’ incomes. … The technology has also made important contributions to increasing the yields of many farmers, reducing production risks, improving productivity and raising global production of key crops.

The combination of economic and environmental benefit delivery is therefore making a valuable contribution to improving the sustainability of global agriculture, with these benefits and improvements being greatest in developing countries.

If farmers who used biotech were not able to, in 2007 it would have taken an additional 14.6 million acres of soybeans, 7.4 million acres of corn, 6.2 million acres of cotton and 0.7 million acres of canola just to produce the same sized crop. (This total area requirement is equivalent to about 6 percent of the arable land in the U.S. or 23 percent of the arable land in Brazil!)

Other Biotech crop benefits from the study:

  • Reduced tillage and fuel use in 2007 which cut carbon dioxide greenhouse gases by the equivalent of removing 6.3 million cars from the road that year.
  • Reduced pesticide spraying by 8.8% (1996-2007)
  • Increased no-till adoption in many regions, especially South America
  • Increased on-farm net economic benefits to $10.1 Billion in 2007, with a total of $$44.1 Billion (1996-2007)
  • Almost 50% of total farm income gains are due to yield increases with biotech crops, with the balance from production cost reductions
  • Farmers in developing countries got the lion’s share of farm income gains in 2007 (58%), while garnering 50% over the 12 year period.
  • Since 1996, biotech corn has added 62.4 Million tonnes and biotech soybeans added 67.8 Million tonnes to global food production.

Read the entire study to gain more insight. And kudos to the Nebraska Corn Board for promoting the value of biotechnology.