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Biotech Crop Commercialization has Resulted in Significant Global Economic and Environmental Benefits

Biotech crop commercialization has resulted in significant global  economic and environmental benefits and is making important  contributions to global food security.

"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," said  Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the  report. "The technology has also made important contributions to  increasing the yields of many farmers, raising global production and  trading volumes of key crops. World price levels of crops like corn  and soybeans would also probably be higher than the current (record  high) levels if this technology had not been widely adopted by  farmers. These economic and environmental gains have also been  greatest in developing countries"

Previewing the findings of the comprehensive study, the key findings  are: 

• Biotech crops have contributed to significantly reducing the  release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. This  results from less fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from 
reduced tillage with biotech crops. In 2006, this was equivalent to  removing 14.8 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or  equal to removing nearly 6.6 million cars from the road for one year;

• Biotech crops have reduced pesticide spraying by 286 million  kg (-7.8%: equivalent to about 40% of the annual volume of pesticide  active ingredient applied to arable crops in the European Union) and 
as a result decreased the environmental impact associated with  herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops by  15.4%;

• There have been substantial net economic benefits at the farm  level amounting to nearly $7 billion in 2006 and $33.8 billion for  the eleven year period. The farm income gains in 2006 is equivalent 
to adding 3.8% to the value of global production of the four main  biotech crops of soybeans, corn, canola and cotton;

• Of the total farm income benefit, 43% ($14.54 billion) has  been due to yield gains, with the balance arising from reductions in  the cost of production. Two thirds of the yield gain derive from  adoption of insect resistant crops and the balance from herbicide  tolerant crops; 

• Farmers in developing countries obtained the largest share of  the farm income gains in 2006 (54%) and over the eleven year period  obtained 49% of the total ($33.8 billion) gains;

• The cost farmers paid for accessing GM technology in 2006 was  equal to 28% of the total technology gains (a total of $9.6 billion  inclusive of farm income gains ($6.91 billion) plus cost of the  technology payable to the seed supply chain ($2.7 billion ));

• For farmers in developing countries the total cost of  accessing the technology in 2006 was equal to about 17% of total  technology gains, whilst for farmers in developed countries the cost  was 38% of the total technology gains. Whilst circumstances vary  between countries, the higher share of total technology gains  accounted for by farm income gains in developing countries relative  to the farm income share in developed countries reflects factors such  as weaker provision and enforcement of intellectual property rights  in developing countries;

• In terms of additional production – in 2006 global production  of soybeans, corn, cotton and canola were respectively +5%, +1.4%,  +5.2% and +0.5% higher than levels would have otherwise been if GM 
technology had not been used by farmers. This amounted to additional  volumes of production of +11.6 million tonnes of soybeans, +9.65  million tonnes of corn, +1.38 million tonnes of cotton lint and +0.21  million tonnes of canola;

• In terms of area equivalents – if the GM technology used by  farmers in 2006 had not been available, maintaining global production  levels at the 2006 levels would have required additional plantings of 
3.9 million ha of soybeans, 1 million ha of corn, 1.8 million ha of  cotton and 0.15 million ha of canola;

• Whilst the additional volumes of food and fibre production  arising from the use of GM technology suggest a small impact relative  to global production, these volumes are far more significant in terms 
of global trade in these commodities – equal to +17% of global trade  on soybeans, +11% of global trade in corn, +14%of global trade in  cotton lint and +3% of global trade in canola. This means that 
global trade levels in these crops are probably significantly higher  than the levels would have been in the absence of use of GM  technology and therefore world prices of these traded crops in 2006 
were probably lower than they would otherwise have been. In other  words, GM technology is having an important impact on contributing to  global supplies of these food, feed and fibre commodities and to  limiting the level of price increases that have occurred in the last  2-3 years.

Graham Brookes
PG Economics


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The latest issue of Plant Physiology (July 2008; Volume 147, Issue 3) has a special section on next generation of biotech crops especially on nutritional improvement.  These papers can
be downloaded free!

Influence of Transgenosis on the Plant-Insect- Relationships, in Particular on Chemically       Mediated Interactions

Effect of Transgenes Conferring Enhanced Pathogen Resistance on the Interaction with Symbiotic        Fungi in Rice

Impact on the Soil Ecosystem through Natural and Genetically Engineered Organisms:
      Effects, Methods and Definition of Damage as Contribution to Risk Assessment

The Decomposition of Bt-Corn on the Fields and its Impact on Earthworms and on other        Macroorganisms in the Soil

Environmental Post-market Monitoring of Bt-maize:
       Approaches to Detect Potential Effects on Butterflies and Natural Enemies

Columns by Dan Gardner

Against the Grains: 'The Terminator Hoax '

Decisions taken in the 84th Meeting of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee

Brazilian Health Biotech: Fostering Crosstalk Between Public and Private Sectors

Biotechnology Related Article Appeared on 'Samyukta Karnataka' ( Regional Language )
June 12, 2008.

Nothing Left to the Imagination

The Politics of GM Food
Kirit S Javali

Hi-tech seed factories: Sowing Seeds of Success

"Indian Seed Industry is Well Placed to Serve Both Domestic and International Markets"
Dr MK Sharma,
Managing Director,
Mahyco Monsanto

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Dr Govind Garg,
Krishidhan Seeds

Metagenomics: Window to the Microbial Universe

Few Checks to Prevent Entry of GM Food

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"Indian Science in Genomics has been Able to Place Itself on the Global Map"

Indian Gene Decoded

The Development of RNAi as a Therapeutic Strategy

FAO E-Conference on Biotechnologies and Water Scarcity

Genetic Landscape

Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture

RH Nature Reviews Genetics 08- Opposition to Transgenic Technologies

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Bt maize performance in Spain

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Open letter to Robert B. Zoellick, President, World BankNew BT variety may push short staple cotton output.

The future of agricultural biotechnology: Creative, destruction, adoption, or irrelevance? ICABR Conference 2008

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