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GM Crops can Benefit Farmers

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Unlike the argument recently put forward by Daniel Church, three reports published this month have documented the benefits of GM crops around the world. A review of peer-reviewed surveys of farmers worldwide who are using the technology compared to farmers who continue to plant conventional crops, published last week in Nature Biotechnology, found that by and large farmers have benefited. Another report released last week by the National Research Council in the US concluded that many American farmers have achieved more cost-effective weed control and reduced losses from insect pests. And a survey of farmers in Brazil, which is a leader in global adoption of GM crops, shows benefits for soybean, cotton and corn growers. New technologies, such as Bt aubergine, promise additional gains to farmers if allowed for commercial release, despite the debate inspired by a recent moratorium in India.

Last year, 14 million farmers in 25 countries grew GM crops commercially, over 90% of them small farmers in developing countries, according to ISAAA. I've been studying the impacts of GM crops for the past 12 years. Given the growth in adoption rates around the world and the increasing number of studies that have been done to assess the impact of the technology on farmers, I was interested in looking at how the results of all these studies stacked up. In my review of global farmer surveys, results from 12 countries indicate that most surveyed farmers have increased yields, decreased costs and improved economic performance. The benefits were found to be greatest for the mostly small farmers in developing countries. The average yield improvements for developing countries range from 16% for insect-resistant corn to 30% for insect-resistant cotton, with an 85% yield increase observed in a single study on herbicide-tolerant corn. On average, developed-country farmers' reported yield increases range from no change for herbicide-tolerant cotton to a 7% increase for insect-resistant cotton.

It is often claimed that biotech crops are more expensive for farmers. However, the evidence shows that while seed costs (including technology fees) were nearly always higher for farmers who planted GM crops, this was usually offset by decreased costs of pesticides. The combination of increased yields and decreased costs has translated to improved economic performance in nearly three-quarters of the cases studied. And the economic advantage may be even greater, as surveys have also found that farmers value additional cost savings that are not included in a traditional accounting of costs, such as management time savings, human and environmental safety and reduced yield risk.


 

Comments

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I think that this should be looked at.

Well, norm... by adopting the same incomplete money-based approach used in this article about the problematic of GM, we could also write an article titled :

"homeopathy "can" benefit its practitioners"

I'm accustomed by more scrutiny from your posts ;)

I'll leave it to you to figure out why your analogy is bad.

Really hard to patent water.

It's not so much the seed as it is the predatory practices of the large seed companies. Small farmers downwind from any patent protected crop are in constant danger of lawsuits from Monsanto and their ilk.

Also, have their been reliable studies documenting the exact effects of drenching growing corn with Round-Up???

I ask because it makes me woozy everytime I spray it.

I couldn't agree more with your point on predatory seed practices. We need are regulatory agencies to enforce laws against unfair trade practices.

From the comments at the Guardian article:

Janet Carpenter is an "independent" consultant who previously worked with the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy...an "independent" think tank funded by:

Arvesta Corporation, Aventi, Bayer, Cheminova, E.I. DuPont de Nemours, FMC, Gowan, Griffin, Monsanto, Rohm and Haas, Syngenta

I wouldn't use the term "independent" really...it could give a false impression...after all Monsanto is unlikely to fund think tanks that actually think outside of the corporate box...

Janet has since left the NCFAP and is now offering independent articles supporting...GM crops...

...well well...

The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy (NCFAP) describes itself as 'a private non-profit non-advocacy research organization'. However, an article in the science journal Nature describes NCFAP as 'a pro-GM industry group' and, looking at the invariably industry-supporting claims emerging out of NCFAP stiudies, it may seem difficult to be certain where research ends and advocacy begins.

http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=94

Okay since we're cherry picking sources. The National Research Council (NRC) which functions under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was also cited. Also Nature and Biotechnology is a peer reviewed journal. I haven't taken the time to go through all the cited sources, but there seems to be a consensus from more that one source that the benefits are real. I've also cited non-industry sources before that have come to the same conclusion. The article relies on multiple sources.

Thanks for the link to lobby watch, it is sometimes hard to know the possible bias of organizations. I had forgotten about this resource thanks

No problem. You might also be interested in this page from Lobbywatch:

The right-wing Australian 'think tank', the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), was established in 1943 and claims to have been 'a significant player in the public policy debate' in Australia ever since. It is comprised of four units located in Victoria and Queensland: a Deregulation Unit, an Economic Policy Unit, an Indigenous Issues Unit and an Environmental Policy Unit.

With Monsanto amongst its funders, the IPA has a specific focus on 'biotechnology', saying it wants to 'combat the misinformation put out by radical groups' who oppose genetic engineering. It claims this technology is actually 'safer', 'cheaper' and 'more environmentally friendly' than conventional plant or animal breeding. According to its website, its promotion of genetic engineering takes place via 'Biotechnology Backgrounders, Speeches and submissions, IPA Review articles/Other articles, Newspaper articles and letters to the press'.

Among the scientists who have promoted GM crops from IPA platforms are CS Prakash, Klaus Ammann and Steve Hughes. Amongst its published materials are items by CS Prakash and David Tribe.

http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=259&page=I

Corporate sponsored think tank writers? Ugh... Marketing masquerading as science.

Nature BioTechnology part of the Nature group of publications was also cited.

Deal with the science, it's not enough to make connections to industry however tenuous they are.
The term industry friendly is sometimes just a euphemism for they disagree with me.

Since you're commenting on genetic engineering I assume you've finished reading Tomorrow's Table, so a question are you opposed to Bt Corn and if so why.

I am not opposed to Biotech, but with 20 years since its infancy it hasn't proven an ability to do much more than increase profits.

There are a number of dangers in its use that need to continue to be studied.

  1. It's effect on biodiversity and its vulnerability to to potenital crushing effects on our food supply if disease strikes homogeneous plant or animal populations.

  2. Its economic effects. I think you like this technology because of its potential to feed more people. But the last 20 years have seen a giant spread of industrial food production and increased hunger. Economics are more complicated than cheaper food = more people eating. Many poor people have both their primary income and primary expense in the realm of food production. Nevada republicans think that you can still trade a chicken for medical service. What is a chicken worth in a market flooded with corn fed factory birds? $8? Not exactly going to cover a deductable. Corporate mass production has devalued one of the primary small business oppurtunities for the poor. Not to mention the small business around seed and family farms. You end up with the same arguement that wallmart uses to say that they are good for the economy.

  3. Nutrician has been hurt by the cheapness of mass produced corn that is stuck into everything we eat. when they get done designing supercorn, will I be able to get brown rice for an affordable price? We are plowing under fields of more nutricous foods to produce the highest profit product.

  4. The need to protect the vulnerabilities in my number 1 with chemicals on plants and drugs in animals. The first does us some potential minor harm and the second has the potential to create super bugs and kill lots of people. Not to mention that any farmer can tell you that corn is one of the most destructive crops when it comes to soil and requires much more fertilizers. also pretty bad for the environment.

  5. The unitentional potential consequences of GM foods. There a number of foods that we eat, like peanuts that have trace amounts of known carcinagens and we don't really know how many protiens we are changing when we alter genetics. We could be increaseing plants content of things that could have long term health effects. How do round-up ready crops resist the poison?

But, all that said, I think biotech is largely a good thing, in the same way that the selective breeding and cloning of bannanas has made my breakfast a much more nutricious meal. On the other hand, I think there is much need for close observation on these programs to track their risks and ecomomic impacts. Plenty of responsible scientific organizaitons have pretty much said just that.

When corporate stooges tell me that everything is going to be just fine, I don't really listen

Well put RedSeven. I expect Norm will be replying shortly with a quick sentence or two that ignores most of what you said and says you're just ignorant because you haven't read 8 books on the topic in the past week. Heh. Just kidding Norm. Sorta.

ANd more to the point of the article. The reason bans exist because there have been cases of corporations selling crops that yeild no fertile seed, requireing farmers to purchase and repurchase seed that they previously would have simply collected from their own fields. I remember reading early stories of farmers burning their own crops becuase they didn't care to continue a relationship with companies surprised them with infertile crops.

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