Yet Another Study Finds Huge Benefits of Genetically-Modified Crops

Yet Another Study Finds Huge Benefits of Genetically-Modified Crops
Vinny Tennis/LNP via AP
Yet Another Study Finds Huge Benefits of Genetically-Modified Crops
Vinny Tennis/LNP via AP
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Spain and Portugal have enjoyed considerable economic and environmental benefits from planting genetically-modified corn, a recently published analysis finds. Agricultural economist Graham Brookes reported the results in the journal GM Crops and Food:

"A total of 1.65 million hectares have been planted... since 1998, with farmers benefiting from an increase in income of €285.4 million. For every extra €1 spent on this seed relative to conventional seed, farmers have gained an additional €4.95 in extra income. These income gains have mostly arisen from higher yields (+11.5% across the two countries using the technology). The seed technology has reduced insecticide spraying by 678,000 kg of active ingredient (−37%) and, as a result, decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops (as measured by the indicator, the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ)) by 21%."

Much of Europe is notoriously unfriendly to planting genetically-modified crops, but Spain and Portugal are two of the few countries that are fairly lenient. This has allowed their farmers to plant corn engineered to be resistant to two infamous pests: the European corn borer and the Mediterranean stem borer, which regularly damage a third of Spain's corn crop and a sixth of Portugal's. As a result, between 30% and 35% of Spain's corn crop and around 8% of Portugal's are currently modified to have borer-resistant traits. Where once these pests could ravage entire fields, now they are merely a nuisance.

A couple other benefits of this agricultural victory, according to Brookes: Water use for irrigation decreased by 0.2% to 0.5%. Land use has also beeen reduced. Roughly 3.5% more land would have needed to be planted to attain similar yields without GM seed.

Brookes' work was supported by Antama Fundacion Spain, a group that supports new agricultural technologies, which raises questions of conflict of interest. However, it should be noted that Brookes' findings align with previous research in the scientific literature. The vast majority of large, independent analyses show that agricultural GM technology is safe, a net benefit to the environment, and good for farmers' bottom lines.

Much of the world is embracing these benefits, while Europe remains the only major holdout.

The figure depicts the current acceptance of GM crops in different countries. Green: National bans. Yellow: Restrictive laws, Red: No formal laws

Source: Graham Brookes. "Twenty-one years of using insect resistant (GM) maize in Spain and Portugal: farm-level economic and environmental contributions." GM Crops and Food. https://doi.org/10.1080/21645698.2019.1614393

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