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Key global economic and environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996-2012

*Corresponding author
PG Economics, Dorchester, United Kingdom


This paper summarises the economic and key environmental impacts that crop biotechnology has had on global agriculture. The analysis shows that there have been very significant net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $18.8 billion in 2012 and $116.6 billion for the seventeen year period 1996-2012 (in nominal terms). These economic gains have been divided roughly 50 percent each to farmers in developed and developing countries. GM technology have also made important contributions to increasing global production levels of the four main crops, having added 122 million tonnes and 230 million tonnes respectively, to the global production of soybeans and maize since the introduction of the technology in the mid-1990s. In terms of key environmental impacts, the adoption of the technology has reduced pesticide spraying by 503 million kg (-8.8 percent) and, as a result, decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops (as measured by the indicator the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ)) by18.7 percent. The technology has also facilitated a significant reduction in the release of greenhouse gas emissions from this cropping area, which, in 2012, was equivalent to removing 11.88 million cars from the roads.


This paper provides insights into the reasons why so many farmers around the world have adopted crop biotechnology and continue to use it in their production systems since the technology first became available on a widespread commercial basis in the mid-1990s. The paper draws, and is largely based on, the considerable body of peer reviewed literature available that has examined these issues. It specifically focuses on the farm level economic effects, the production effects, the environmental impact resulting from changes in the use of insecticides and herbicides, and the contribution towards reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The report is based on extensive analysis of existing farm level impact data for biotech crops. Whilst primary data for impacts of commercial cultivation were not available for every crop, in every year and for each country, a substantial body of representative research and analysis is available and this has been used as the basis for the analysis presented. This has been supplemented by the authors’ own data collection and analysis. The analysis of pesticide usage also takes into consideration changes i ...