CROPLIFE Australia has welcomed findings from two international reports released last week, which found the use of genetically modified technology returned several environmental benefits to growers, and resulted in a direct global farm benefit exceeding $18 billion in 2016.
The complementary independent reports were published by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) and UK-based PG Economics last Wednesday and highlighted the economic, social and environmental benefits of GM technology.
According to the ISAAA’s report, the global area of GM crops rose to 189.8 million hectares in 2017, up from 185.1m/ha in 2016.
In the same year, a total of 24 countries grew biotech crops, and an additional 43 non-planting countries imported GM seeds for food, feed and processing.
Meantime, the PG Economics report found that over 21 years, crop biotechnology had been responsible for the additional production of 24.9 million tonnes of cotton lint and 10.5mt of canola, with 80pc of the world’s cotton crop planted to biotech varieties last year, and 30pc of the global canola crop.
Report author and PG Economics director Graham Brookes said the use of GM technology played a vital role in global food supply.
“Global food insecurity is a huge problem in developing countries, with around 108 million people in food crisis-affected countries still at risk or experiencing food insecurity,” Mr Brookes said.
“We have seen for more than 20 years now how crop biotechnology adoption in developing countries has contributed to higher yields, more secure production, and increased incomes greatly contributing to decreasing poverty, hunger and malnutrition in some regions of the globe most prone to these challenges.”
The PG Economics report also found GM technology had positive environmental effects, including a carbon emissions saving from reduced fuel use and additional carbon sequestration equal to the removal of 16.75 million cars from the road.
Other benefits included a reduced use of insecticides and herbicides by 18.4pc on GM crop areas since 1996.
Croplife chief executive officer Matthew Cossey said the reports reaffirmed the benefits of the adoption of GM technology and reflected the reasons crop biotechnology use continued to grow across Australia.
Mr Cossey said GM crop plantings rose eight per cent from 2016 to 2017, with last year’s combined GM cotton and canola crop reaching 924,000 hectares.
“When farmers are given access and the opportunity of growing GM crops, they can grow more on less land, increase crop yields, contribute to international competitiveness, and reduce agriculture’s environmental impact,” Mr Cossey said.
“Evidence has shown that given the choice, farmers increasingly choose to grow GM crops despite the remnants of extreme and vocal anti-science activist campaigns.
“The reports confirm the importance of Australian farmers being able to choose innovative, safe and approved technologies to remain globally competitive, meet the requirements of increased food demand, and farm sustainably in a changing and challenging climate.
“These reports highlight the need to ensure non-science based and unnecessary costly regulation doesn’t hold Australia back from reaping the benefits and being a world leader in agricultural innovation.”