Biotech benefits

Impacts on US agriculture of biotechnology-derived crops planted in 2003-An update of eleven case studies

This paper is relevant to the impact areas in the following areas:

Crops, , , ,
Traits, ,
Tags, , , ,

Abstract or Summary

One of the most revolutionary and promising pest management approaches in crop production is the development and use of biotechnology. By inserting genetic material from outside a plant’s normal genome, crop varieties have been developed to resist an array of pests. As a result, these crops have been grown without using certain pesticides necessary on conventional crops (example: insect-resistant or Bt crops). In some cases, the biotechnology-derived crop provides effective control of a plant pest that is not otherwise well controlled (example: Bt crops and virus-resistant crops). Other biotechnology-derived crops are tolerant of certain herbicides that injure conventional crop varieties. Planting the biotechnology-derived herbicide-tolerant crop has made it possible to use the associated herbicide, which often provides more effective and less expensive weed control.

Available for commercial planting since 1996, the first wave of biotechnologyderived crops has been embraced with an unprecedented enthusiasm in the United States. Impressive gains have been noted in the adoption of these crops each year and planted acreage climbed to 106 million acres by 2003. With three approved applications (herbicide-tolerance, insect-resistance, and virus-resistance) and a planted acreage of sixty three percent of the global total in 2003, the United States has continued as a World leader in the field of biotechnology.

Agricultural biotechnology and its applications has been a subject of vigorous debate between the proponents and opponents of the technology. Questions have been raised repeatedly about the impacts of the technology on agriculture, trade, environment, and human health. The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy (the National Center) has played a unique role in this debate with its release of a groundbreaking study in June of 2002 that addressed some of these important issues. Findings that stemmed from this research have been used as building blocks to provide a stream of additional information contributing to the ongoing public debate about biotechnology across the world.


The 2002 study analyzed and estimated the impacts on US agriculture of the then commercialized biotechnology applications in addition to several potential applications on crop yield, pesticide use, and grower cost. Estimates for the 2002 report 3 were based on 2000 or 2001 acreage information. With continued approvals of biotechnology applications that afford protection to a broader range of pest problems, the contributions and impacts of biotechnology-derived crops are expected to change. While the number of adopted biotechnology-derived crops remained unchanged since the National Center�s report, the number of commercialized and adopted applications have increased by 38%. For example, biotechnology-derived crop cultivars with resistance or enhanced resistance to a broad spectrum of insect pests were introduced subsequent to the release of the National Center�s report in 2002. They include Bt corn resistant to European corn borer/southwestern corn borer/black cutworm/fall armyworm/corn earworm (trade name: Herculex I), Bt corn resistant to Western, Northern, and Mexican corn rootworm (trade name: YieldGard Rootworm), and Bt cotton with resistance/enhanced resistance to bollworm/budworm/looper/armyworm pest complex (trade name: Bollgard II).


In addition, American growers have increased production of biotechnologyderived crops by 10 and 22%, respectively, in 2002 and 2003 compared to 2001, a year which was used as the basis for the National Center�s 2002 study. With a technology that is planted on vast areas of the United States and one that is advancing at a rapid pace as this, it is imperative that the impacts – agronomic, economic, and environmental consequences to be specific – be assessed using the current adoption data.

The purpose of this report is to update the estimates and quantify the changes in the impacts of biotechnology-derived crops on US agriculture that have occurred since 2001. The report attempts to provide an economic perspective and establish the basis to understand why American farmers have embraced biotechnology and are likely to continue to do so. Other impacts on production practices such as tillage are also discussed.

Information specific to farm level impacts, current information in particular, is critical to the biotechnology debate and policy discussions. If policy makers and the public do not understand the current impacts the technology can provide, the technology may not be fully utilized.

Paper reproduced by permission of NCFAP


Impacts on US agriculture of biotechnology-derived crops planted in 2003-An update of eleven case studies (held on an external server, and so may require additional authentication details)

CropLife International fully acknowledges the source and authors of the publication as detailed above.