Stephen J. Toth, Jr., Pest Management Information Specialist
Wayne G. Buhler, Pesticide Education Specialist
Volume 12, Number 4, June 11, 2002
Biotechnology is helping control diseases and pests that take a bite out of U.S.-grown crops, resulting in more food production at lower costs and with less reliance upon pesticides, according to a comprehensive study released at BIO 2002 in Toronto, Canada.
The 40 case studies of 27 crops compiled by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy (NCFAP) documented that hardier crops developed through biotechnology can help Americans reap an additional 14 billion pounds of food and improve farm income $2.5 billion, while using 163 million fewer pounds of pesticide.
This study explains the vast impact biotechnology is having and the future potential for our food production system, said Leonard Gianessi, program director for NCFAP, a nonprofit, Washington-based research organization. In some cases we studied, biotechnology offers the only practical way to control diseases that reduce yields and threaten entire crops.
The study confirmed that six crops currently in the marketplace developed through biotechnology -- soybeans, corn, cotton, papaya, squash and canola -- produce an additional 4 billion pounds of food and fiber on the same acreage, improve farm income $1.5 billion and reduce pesticide volume by 46 million pounds.
Assuming the additional 21 crops evaluated in the study are eventually planted, production would increase 10 billion pounds, farm income would improve $1 billion and pesticide volume would be reduced 117 million pounds. The study evaluated regional production in 27 of America's crops, or slightly more than half of the U.S. crop value.
As opposed to previous studies, our work goes well beyond the traditional agricultural commodities and evaluates the impact biotechnology can have on a much wider range of crops, including fruits and vegetables, Gianessi said. In fact, the study shows every region in the country stands to benefit from development of the new varieties evaluated in this study.
Growers in each of the 47 states reflected in the report would see yield increases. (There are no case studies evaluating production in Alaska, Nevada and Rhode Island.) North Dakota would realize the greatest production gains, where growers could see yield increases of 2.4 billion pounds from the adoption of fungal-resistant barley and herbicide-tolerant wheat. California would experience the largest pesticide reduction at 65.8 million pounds per year.
Furthermore, Gianessi offered several examples where biotechnology may represent the only chance of avoiding widespread devastation of the food supply, including:
In nearly every case we evaluated, biotechnology provides equal or better control of harmful pests at reduced costs. Gianessi said. However, we are still in the early stages of realizing the impact of biotechnology on food and fiber production in this country.
The 40 case studies, which were reviewed by nearly 70 plant biotechnology experts from 20 academic and government institutions, is the most comprehensive evaluation of the impact on U.S. agriculture of crops developed through biotechnology.
The complete study, Plant Biotechnology: Current and Potential Impact for Improving Pest Management in U.S. Agriculture An Analysis of 40 Case Studies is available on the Internet at: http://www.ncfap.org. It was commissioned with a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation, and was later expanded to cover 40 case studies of 27 crops with funding from the Biotechnology Industry Organization, CropLife America, Council for Biotechnology Information, Grocery Manufacturers of America and Monsanto.
The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy is a private, nonprofit, non-advocacy research organization based in Washington, D.C. Originally established in 1984 at Resources for the Future, the center became an independent organization in 1992. NCFAP researchers conduct studies in four program areas: biotechnology, pesticides, U.S. farm and food policy, and international trade and development.
For more information, contact Sara Pace at (202) 328 5044 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Source: National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, News Release, June 10, 2002.
Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.
Last modified on June 11, 2002 by Stephen J. Toth, Jr.