The “pro” side in the debate over the benefit of genetically modified foods got a big boost from science this month, with an international study funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program FOODSECURE concluding that GM crops are good for the economy and reduce the amount of pesticides used in agriculture.
The German study is the largest review ever conducted on the effect of GM crops on farming. It is a meta-analysis, meaning a rigorous study of the numbers inside past studies on the topic. The review included studies of GM crops conducted from 1995 to March 2014 that were published in English.
Published Nov. 3 in PLOS ONE, the peer-reviewed, open-access publication for the Public Library of Science, the meta-analysis found that GM crops are a “promising technology.”
According to the authors, GM crops have reduced chemical pesticide use by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22 percent and increased farmer profits by 68 percent.
Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops, they reported. And in a conclusion that contradicts those who’ve argued GM crops are not right for the developing world, the authors found that yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.
Authors Matin Qaim and Wilhelm Klumper, both of Germany’s Gottingen University, said they hope their research will help build public trust for GM technology.
In a world that will be challenged to increased food production to meet future population growth, the study found GM crop yields can be increased by 14 percentage points more in the developing world than in the developed world. Pests and weeds are a bigger problem in developing nations, another reason GM technology brings bigger benefits there.
Commercial GM crops include those that are modified to increase resistance to pests, to glyphosates or to herbicides used for weed control. The German study found that herbicide-tolerant crops have lower production costs, while insect-resistant ones do not. In that case, the need for less pesticide is offset by the higher seed prices, the study showed.© Food Safety News