GMO crops increase yields, benefit the environment

Among the winners in this month’s elections were foods containing genetically modified organisms. And, it’s possible that labeling laws, if passed, would have decreased the amount of farmland, in the U.S. and abroad, given over to modified crops. That was the goal of many labeling proponents in recently lost ballot initiatives, and a new study suggests it would have been a bad result.

The study doesn’t look at the health effects of GMOs. Thousands of independent studies have already done so and found that GMOs are perfectly safe to eat. The new research instead looks at the costs and benefits for agriculture and the environment, a question on which there is less consensus.

The new study, in the journal PLOS One, comes down strongly on the pro-GMO side. It’s a meta-analysis that aggregates and examines the results of 147 existing research studies looking at GM soybeans, maize and cotton, the world’s biggest GM commodity crops. The authors, a pair of agricultural economists at Germany’s University of Göttingen, found that GM technology increased crop yields by 22 percent, reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, and increased farmer profits by 68 percent.

A few details jump out from the study. For one, the benefits were greater in those GM crops that produced their own pesticides rather than those engineered for herbicide resistance—the latter trait has been hugely convenient for farmers, but has also shown a greater rebound effect as weed species evolved resistance to the chosen herbicides.

The yield and profit gains were also greater in developing countries than in developed countries.

Read the full original story: How GMO Crops Can Be Good for the Environment

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