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9-Misc: Study outlines biotech's environmental advantages



                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Study Outlines Biotech's Environmental Advantages
SOURCE: Progressive Farmer, USA, by Julianne Johnston
        http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5825
DATE:   11 Oct 2005

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Study Outlines Biotech's Environmental Advantages

According to a study released today by the London, England, firm, PG
Economics Ltd, biotech crops have made a significant, positive impact on
the global economy and environment, decreasing pesticide spraying and
reducing the environmental footprint associated with pesticide use by 14
percent.

"Since 1996, adoption of biotech crops has contributed to reducing
greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and decreased pesticide
spraying," said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, and one of the
authors who conducted the study. "While greatly enhancing the way farmers
in 18 countries produce food, feed and fiber, biotech crops have reduced
the environmental footprint associated with agricultural practices. This
study offers the first quantifiable global look at the impact of biotech
crop production."

The study, "GM crops: the global socio-economic and environmental impact
- the first nine years 1996-2004," reported that biotech crops
contributed to significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions from
agricultural practices. This reduction results from decreased fuel use,
about 475 million gallons in the past nine years, and additional soil
carbon sequestration because of reduced plowing or improved conservation
tillage associated with biotech crops. In 2004, this reduction was
equivalent to eliminating more than 22 billion pounds of carbon dioxide
from the atmosphere, or removing 5 million cars - one-fifth of cars
registered in the United Kingdom - from the road for one year.

Biotech crops have reduced the volume of pesticide spraying globally by 6
percent since 1996, equivalent to a decrease of 380 million pounds
according to the study. That's equivalent to eliminating 1,514 rail cars
of pesticide's active ingredient. The largest environmental gains from
changes in pesticide spraying have been from biotech soybeans and cotton,
which have reduced the associated environmental footprint by 19 percent
and 17 percent, respectively.

According to the study, the industrialized nations of the United States
and Canada, as well as the developing nations of China, South Africa and
Argentina, experienced the greatest reductions in the environmental
impact of crop production.

"As the world is increasingly focused on the need to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions, it is clear biotech crops are already making an important
positive contribution to achieving this goal," Brookes said.

In addition to environmental gains from biotech crops, substantial net
economic benefits at the farm level have been realized. Since 1996,
global farm income has increased by a cumulative total of $27 billion,
derived from a combination of enhanced productivity and efficiency gains.
This increase in farm income is equivalent to adding 3 percent to 4
percent to the value of global production of the four main biotech crops.
Herbicide-tolerant soybeans have generated the greatest gains at more
than $17 billion in increased income, while biotech cotton farmers
improved their income by $6.5 billion in the past nine years.

Growers in the United States and Argentina have reaped the greatest
rewards, each gaining approximately $10 billion in the past nine years,
while farmers in China have experienced a $4 billion income increase from
planting biotech cotton, says the study.

In addition to the significant measurable benefits, valuable indirect
benefits that are more difficult to quantify can be credited to biotech
crop adoption. These include increased management flexibility,
facilitating reduced tillage practices, reduced production risk and
improved crop quality.

More than 8.25 million farmers in 18 countries around the world have
adopted biotech crops, and 90 percent of those are resource-poor
producers located in developing countries.


                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GMOs cut greenhouse gas emissions, says new report
SOURCE: compiled and written by GMWatch, UK
        http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5825
DATE:   12 Oct 2005

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


GMOs cut greenhouse gas emissions, says new report

Monsanto has commissioned a report from PG Economics Ltd. The report was
written by the company's directors: Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot.
Barfoot also heads an organisation called Bioportfolio which has the
motto: 'Serving the biotechnology industry' and both Brookes and Barfoot
have a long and controversial history of producing reports that do
exactly that.
http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=308&page=P

A paper summarising the new report has also been published by the Journal
of Agrobiotechnology Management & Economics (aka AgBioForum). Although
this is being presented to journalists as a peer reviewed journal, it has
CS Prakash on its board and it is funded by the Illinois-Missouri
Biotechnology Alliance whose purpose is "to fund biotechnology
research... directed at expanding the volume of profitable businesses in
the US food and agricultural sector".
http://www.imba.missouri.edu/

The science in the new report is somewhat less than impressive. It's not
even clear where half of their figures come from. Most of the references
are presentations at biotech conferences and unpublished articles and
very few appear to have been peer reviewed. Some of the cited papers are
from PG Economics Ltd itself (whose biotech reports are mostly funded by
the biotech industry), the National Center for Food and Agriculture
Policy (described by an article in Science as 'a pro-GM industry group'),
ISAAA (industry funded), etc.

The most outlandish claim in the report is that biotech crops are helping
to counter global warming. As the article below notes, the report claims:
"biotech crops contributed to significantly reduced greenhouse gas
emissions from agricultural practices. This reduction results from
decreased fuel use, about 475 million gallons in the past nine years, and
additional soil carbon sequestration because of reduced plowing or
improved conservation tillage associated with biotech crops. In 2004,
this reduction was equivalent to eliminating more than 22 billion pounds
of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or removing 5 million cars - one-
fifth of cars registered in the United Kingdom - from the road for one year."

But reduced plowing or improved conservation tillage - low or no till
agriculture - does not require GM crops. The land agent Mark Griffiths
quotes the US Dept of Agriculture's own analysis on this: "Using
herbicide-tolerant seed did not significantly affect no-till adoption."

Griffiths comments:

"This finding sits in stark contrast to the claims of those who have
attempted to promote GM crops on the back of rising economic and
environmental interest in no-till crop husbandry.

As the USDA report points out, the no-till acreage in America had already
been steadily rising before the introduction of GM crops. That prior
trend has since simply continued. In fact to some degree it has
subsequently stagnated according to the USDA analysis.

It has never been necessary to grow GM crops in order to carry out no-
till agriculture. In fact the countries that have been expanding no-till
agriculture at the fastest rate in proportion to their total arable area
are in Latin America, where only Argentina grows GM crops on a
substantial commercial scale (no-till was introduced on tractor-
mechanised and large farms in Paraguay in 1990 and by 1997 51% of its
total cultivated area was 'no-tilled'. The relative figures in 2000/1 are
for Paraquay 52%, Argentina 32%, Brazil 21%, and the United States 16%.)."
http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/usdagmeconomics.htm

Ironically, where no-till is associated with GM herbicide-resistant
crops, it is being undermined by the emergence of herbicide-resistant
weeds, as a U.S. weed extension specialist noted recently, "With
glyphosate-resistant horseweed we've already seen a reduction in no-till
acres."
http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5818

Growing weed resistance also means increased use of chemicals and more
tractor movements to deliver them. Another problem generating more
chemicals and more tractor movements is that of volunteers. Just
published research shows that this can be a significant problem with GM
canola (rape) for as long as 15 years after the crop is grown. The study,
published by the Royal Society, concluded there was "a potentially
serious problem associated with the temporal persistence of rape seeds in
soil."
http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5814

In any case, the claim made by the report for decreased chemical use on
GM crops is seriously open to challenge. A 2003 technical paper by Dr
Charles Benbrook analysed all the publicly available US Department of
Agriculture (USDA) data on pesticide use in the US since 1996 when GM
crops were first introduced. It looked at pounds of pesticides applied
and found that, while they initially led to a reduction in pesticide use,
in the period 2001-2003 GM crops actually *increased* use of over all
pesticides by over 73 million pounds.
http://www.biotech-info.net/technicalpaper6.html

There is also pretty good evidence that the increased corporatising of
farms that GM-agriculture encourages globally, not least in developing
countries, will result in more machines, larger farms with fewer workers
and the growing of export not subsistence crops - all likely to result in
an increase in greenhouse gases. Also, if we really wanted to tackle the
climate change impacts of farming, the main area to look at would be
nitrogen fertilizers - where most CO2 emissions related to farming are found.

Graham Brookes was also punting the new report at a biotech industry
conference going on in London. Here's today's conference session:
http://www.cordiaconvention.com/page.cfm?HyperLink=http://
www.cordiaconvention.com/page.cfm/action=Seminars/SeminarID=51

Here's the full programme:
http://www.cordiaconvention.com/page.cfm/Action=Seminars/t=m/goSection=20

PRESS RELEASE:
Biotech Crops Reduce Pesticide Use, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Planting of
these crops generates additional US$27.5 billion in global farm income
http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/GM_global_study.htm

GM crops: the global socio-economic and environmental impact - the first
nine years 1996-2004 (Full Report pdf 762 kb)
http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/pdf/globalimpactstudyfinal.pdf

GM Crops: The Global Economic and Environmental Impact - The First Nine
Years 1996 - 2004. AgBioForum 8 (2&3): 187-196 (2005) (PDF 242 kb)
http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/pdf/v8n23a15-brookes.pdf




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