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7-Business: Study sees big gains from modified crops

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TITLE:  Study sees big gains from modified crops
SOURCE: The Financial Times, UK, by Clive Cookson
DATE:   Jun 24, 2003

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Study sees big gains from modified crops

European farmers would derive big benefits from plant biotechnology - and
the environment would gain from reduced pesticide use - according to the
first Europe-wide study of the economic impact of genetically modified
crops. Advertisement

The US National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy is analysing the
effect that 15 GM crops would have on European agriculture. It released
the first three case studies - for insect-resistant maize, herbicide-
tolerant sugarbeet and fungus- resistant potato - at the Bio 2003
conference in Washington.

The results show that for those three crops GM varieties would increase
annual yields by 7.8bn kg, cut pesticide consumption by 9.7m kg and
increase farm income by ?1.05bn ($1.22bn, 730m).

The study was funded by the US Biotechnology Industry Organisation and
two biotech companies, Monsanto and Syngenta, but was carried out
independently by the NCFAP, a non-profit research foundation based in

The methodology is based on an earlier study for the US, which showed
that US farm incomes would increase by $2.5bn a year through biotech
crops. European experts are reviewing the studies.

"I hope people will not dismiss this as an 'industry-funded project',
because our sponsors have no say in the methodology or results," said
Leonard Gianessi, NCFAP programme director. "We have not looked at the
risks of biotech crops but people should know what benefits Europe is
forgoing by not planting them."

The largest benefits come from potato resistant to "late blight", a
devastating fungal infection that caused the Irish famine in the 1840s
and remains a problem throughout Europe. Researchers at Wageningen
University in the Netherlands have produced blight-resistant GM potatoes
by transferring a gene from a related Mexican plant that does not suffer
from the infection.

Introduction of blight- resistant potatoes would cut fungicide
application by 7.5m kg, increase production by 850m kg and raise growers'
net income by ?417m a year, the study shows.

Maize resistant to corn borer insects is an established commercial
product grown extensively in north America. This maize is planted on
25,000 hectares in Spain, the most significant GM planting in Europe so
far. The main beneficiaries of this crop would be farmers in southern
Europe, because the pest does not occur farther north.

The introduction of herbicide-tolerant sugarbeet would benefit farmers
throughout Europe, the study shows, increasing net income by ?390m per year.

Mr Gianessi said that if growers did not want to increase overall
production, they could farm less intensively - further reducing their
input costs - or land could be used for other purposes.

"We found that an area larger than Luxembourg could be removed from
production without any production loss, due to higher yields on the
remaining biotech acreage," he said.


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