Over the last 20 years, biotech or GM seeds have provided real and documented benefits to farmers worldwide. For those of us who don’t farm or have the opportunity to see these benefits firsthand, we’ve captured a few here with links to online resources if you’re interested in learning more.
GM crops enable us to produce more food sustainably while using fewer resources. For example, GM crops provide a healthier environment by saving on pesticides and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions while increasing crop yields substantially.
Resource: Top 10 Facts, ISAAA, 2013
“From 1996 to 2012, biotech crops contributed to Food Security, Sustainability and the Environment/Climate Change by: increasing crop production valued at US$116.9 billion; providing a better environment, by saving 497 million kg a.i. of pesticides; in 2012 alone reducing CO2 emissions by 26.7 billion kg, equivalent to taking 11.8 million cars off the road for one year; conserving biodiversity by saving 123 million hectares of land from 1996-2012.”
Resource: GM Crops: Global Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts, 1996-2011, PG Economics
“The net economic benefit at the farm level in 2011 was $19.8 billion, equal to an average increase in income of $133/hectare. For the 16 year period (1996-2011), the global farm income gain has been $98.2 billion; Of the total farm income benefit, 49% ($48 billion) has been due to yield gains resulting from lower pest and weed pressure and improved genetics, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production.”
“The insect resistant (IR) technology used in cotton and corn has consistently delivered yield gains from reduced pest damage. The average yield gains over the 1996-2011 period across all users of this technology has been +10.1% for insect resistant corn and +15.8% for insect resistant cotton.”
“If crop biotechnology had not been available to the (16.7 million) farmers using the technology in 2011, maintaining global production levels at the 2011 levels would have required additional plantings of 5.4 million ha of soybeans, 6.6 million ha of corn, 3.3 million ha of cotton and 0.2 million ha of canola. This total area requirement is equivalent to 9% of the arable land in the US, 25% of the arable land in Brazil or 28% of the cereal area in the EU (27).”
Resource: Genetically Engineered Crops in the US, USDA-ERS, 2014
“Corn insecticide use by both GE seed adopters and non-adopters has decreased — only 9 percent of all U.S. corn farmers used insecticides in 2010. Insecticide use on corn farms declined from 0.21 pound per planted acre in 1995 to 0.02 pound in 2010.”
“Data show that the yield gain by Bt corn adopters relative to conventional varieties increased from 12.5 bushels per acre in 2001 to 16 bushels in 2005 and 26 bushels in 2010.”
GM crops and food are strictly regulated and have been extensively researched and tested for safety.
Resource: Also from ISAAA Top 10 Facts
Since 1996, over 60 different countries with regulatory systems have granted a total of 2,497 approvals of which 1,129 are for food use, 813 are for feed use, and 555 are for commercial planting.
Resource: Modern Food Biotechnology, Human Health and Development, World Health Organization (WHO), 2005
“GM foods currently available on the international market have undergone risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health any more than their conventional counterparts.” As the WHO noted, the GM foods “currently traded on the international market have passed risk assessments in several countries and are not likely, nor have been shown, to present risks for human health.”
Resource: The State of Food and Agriculture, 2003-2004, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations
FAO concluded that “no verifiable untoward toxic or nutritionally deleterious effects resulting from the consumption of foods derived from genetically modified crops have been discovered anywhere in the world.” As reported by the UN, millions of people have consumed GM plants including maize, soybeans, and oilseed rape (canola), without any observed health effects. GM foods have been extensively tested for increased levels of allergens and toxins “and none has been found.”
Resource: “A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001 – 2010),” European Commission, 2010
This study reviews the results and conclusions from 130+ research projects, covering more than 25 years of research, costing more than 200 million Euros, and involving 500+ independent research institutions and universities throughout the EU. Based on the body of work, they concluded that “biotechnology is not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.”