Biotech Crops Aid Conservation Tillage While Reducing Environmental Impact

Biotech crops have spurred the use of conservation tillage and provided clear economic and environmental benefits worldwide, according to a peer-reviewed study.

According to study author Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics Limited of Dorchester, U.K., the United States, Canada and Argentina have led the way toward environmental benefits by utilizing herbicide-tolerant crops to switch to no- and low-till farming.

The study estimates that since their commercialization in 1996, biotech crops have saved farmers 441 million gallons of fuel through reduced field operations, eliminating 10,170 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

All told, biotech crops, planted during their 10th year of use on 215 million acres by 8.5 million farmers, reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 8.9 million tons. That’s equivalent to removing nearly 4 million family cars from the road for an entire year, according to Brookes.

Worldwide, biotech crops decreased the environmental impact of crop production associated with pesticide use by more than 15 percent, the study says. Since 1996, herbicide tolerant and insect-resistant biotech crops reduced pesticide sprayings by 500 million pounds of active ingredients, a 6.9 percent reduction worldwide.

According to Brookes’ estimates, biotech crops contributed $5 billion in net economic benefit to farmers. Combining biotech insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant traits in corn has boosted farm income by more than $3.1 billion since the traits’ introductions, he notes.

Brookes summarized that the economic and environmental benefits of biotech crops are fairly evenly divided between farmers in developed and developing countries. Over the 1996-2005 period, farmers in developing countries…

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