15.4 million farmers can’t be wrong: GM crops offer tangible socio-economic benefits

EuropaBio Agricultural Biotechnology

Brussels 15 April 2011

Do GM crops have socio-economic benefits?  15.4 million farmers around the world who planted these crops on 148 million hectares in 2010 would most likely answer with a resounding ‘yes,’ thanks to higher profits from higher yields and environmental benefits that also translate into savings. 

The European Commission report on GM crops’ socio-economic implications released today should encourage European policymakers to reflect on this important topic – and the social and economic benefits Europe is missing out on by not approving more GM crops for cultivation.  The European Commission report recognises that farmers cultivating GM crops “could benefit from higher yields.”

According to a study released this week, farmers planting GM crops have indeed experienced results:

  • Higher productivity: growing more on less land
  • Better income for farmers: global farm income benefit of over €7 billion in 2009
  • 53% of farm income gain in 2009 to farmers in developing countries, and 90% of those who plant GM crops are small, resource-poor farmers who live in developing countries
  • Less need to till the soil, which saves fuel and money, while reducing carbon emissions – removing the equivalent of 6.9 million cars from the road in 2009 (a decrease of 17.7 billion kg of CO2 )
  • Cost savings, for example through reduced applications of crop protection products – 393 million kg reduction in 2009
  • Two-thirds of the benefits of growing GM are shared among farmers and consumers, while one-third goes to the developers and seed suppliers
  • Higher yields help to preserve natural habitats
  • Less water needed for some GM crops

In Europe, it is estimated that Spanish farmers had an income gain of €65 million (1996-2009) thanks to the cultivation of insect-resistant GM maize. A study by the Joint Research Centre showed that this maize increased farm income by up to €122 per hectare, led to higher average yields of 11.8% in an area of heavy insect pressure, and resulted in a reduction in insecticide costs by as much as €20.04 per hectare.

Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, EuropaBio’s Director for Green Biotechnology Europe, commented, “Purely in economic terms, a recent study showed that EU farmers are missing out on €440-930 million each year, simply because they do not have access to the GM crops that could be grown here. This means, as well, that there are other foregone benefits, such as no-till methods, fuel savings, and carbon emissions reductions. There is no question that these crops are beneficial – otherwise, why would 15.4 million farmers around the world continue to plant them?”

Additional Resources

For further information, please contact:

Carel du Marchie Sarvaas
Director, Green Biotechnology Europe
Tel: +32 2 739 11 85
Mobile: +32 473 890 359
Molly Hurley-Dépret
Communications Officer
Tel: +32 2 739 11 62 
Mobile: +32 473 334 875

About EuropaBio

EuropaBio's mission is to promote an innovative and dynamic biotechnology based industry in Europe. EuropaBio, (the European Association for Bioindustries), has 66 corporate and 7 associate members operating worldwide, 4 Bioregions and 22 national biotechnology associations representing some 1800 small and medium sized enterprises. http://www.europabio.org/

Brookes, Graham and Peter Barfoot (2011). GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2009.

Carpenter, Janet (2011). Impacts of GM crops on biodiversity. GM Crops 2:1, 1-17.

Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (2008). "Adoption and performance of the first GM crop introduced in EU agriculture: Bt maize in Spain.” Also published in Nature Biotechnology, April 2008.


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