GMO Food

Banning GMOs Would Hurt Nature

Farmers would have to plow down an area roughly equal to Connecticut.



Today some 18 million farmers in 28 countries planted about 181 million hectares of GMO crops in 2014, with about 40 percent of that in the United States. In the United States, modern biotech crop varieties make up almost all the corn (89 percent), soybeans (94 percent) and cotton (91 percent) planted each year. A new study by agricultural researchers at Purdue University asks what would happen if activists got their wish and planting modern biotech crop varieties was banned globally? The researchers reported:

Eliminating all GMOs in the United States, the model shows corn yield declines of 11.2 percent on average. Soybeans lose 5.2 percent of their yields and cotton 18.6 percent. To make up for that loss, about 102,000 hectares of U.S. forest and pasture would have to be converted to cropland and 1.1 million hectares globally for the average case.

Greenhouse gas emissions increase significantly because with lower crop yields, more land is needed for agricultural production, and it must be converted from pasture and forest. …

The price changes for corn were as high as 28% and for soybeans as high as 22%. In general, the price increases for the reference and average cases were higher than those observed previously for biofuel shocks. Food price changes in the U.S. amount to $14-$24 billion per year. As expected, welfare falls both in the U.S. and globally.

The additional area of land that would have to be plowed up to sustain current levels of production is about the size of Connecticut. As I noted in my recent "debate" with anti-GMO alarmist Nassim Taleb:

In a 2014 meta-analysis of 147 studies, a team of German researchers reports that the global adoption of genetically modified crops has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22 percent, and increased farmer profits by 68 percent. They conclude that there is "robust evidence of GM crop benefits for farmers in developed and developing countries."

Of course, eliminating the federal ethanol mandate would also encourage the return of farmed acres to Nature too.