According to a comprehensive new study, global farm income gains from crop biotechnology increased $78.4 billion from 1996-2010, and this trend will continue. Sounds pretty nice, but who is really benefitting? Well, this study demonstrates that the majority of 2010 farm income gains went to farmers in developing countries, 90% of which are small, resource poor farms.
The benefits don’t stop at increasing profits for hardworking, low-income farmers, though. Other findings of the study show that over the fifteen years studied, crop biotechnology reduced pesticide usage by 438 million kilograms. In 2010 alone, biotech crops were responsible for greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to removing 8.6 million cars from the road for a year. The charge that biotechnology produces “Frankenfood” is looking as silly as the name itself, with the economic and environmental benefits of biotech crops becoming increasingly widespread.
It’s not difficult to find plenty of other reputable studies outlining the benefits of crop biotechnology and the wasted potential when it is not embraced. The European Union has even stricter laws than North America, and according to a 2012 study, it has been “concluded that biotechnology is not per se riskier than conventional plant breeding technologies” and “not adopting modern breeding tools—including biotechnology—will probably hamper the European agricultural systems.”
As mentioned above, though, it is those in developing countries who have the most to gain, and as Bill Gates outlined in his 2012 Foundation Letter, “We can help poor farmers sustainably increase their productivity so they can feed themselves and their families. But that will only happen if we prioritize agricultural innovation.”
So with all of this evidence pointing to the vital significance and positive results of biotech crops, how does the North American public perceive biotechnology? According to this 2009 study, over nine in ten Canadians see biotech as important to Canada’s future economic prosperity, and more than eight in ten support biotechnology research and the use of products and processes that involve biotech. In the United States, a 2012 consumer survey found that over 70% of consumers would be somewhat or very likely to purchase biotech foods that provided tangible benefits and only 2% of respondents identified that they were concerned about biotech foods.
The forecasts, results and public support are all staunchly positive for crop biotechnology and the biotechnology industry as a whole. The benefits of this technology will continue to benefit the global population both economically and environmentally, and the more we embrace it, the greater those benefits will be.