GM crops achieve 2 wins
Supporters of genetically modified crops insist they have science on their side. Two new developments would seem to strengthen their case. The first is a statistical analysis, published in a high-profile scientific publication, which concludes th...
Supporters of genetically modified crops insist they have science on their side. Two new developments would seem to strengthen their case.
The first is a statistical analysis, published in a high-profile scientific publication, which concludes that biotech crops bring significant advantages, including reducing pesticide use and increasing yields.
The second development is an open letter from 21 prominent plant scientists in Europe to European decision makers. The scientists ask, among other things, for the ability to perform field experiments on biotech crops without being blocked on political grounds or being at risk of vandalism. They also ask Europe to promptly authorize genetically modified plant varieties that have been found safe by competent regulators elsewhere.
The scientists say in the letter that Europe will have trouble meeting its Horizon 2020 agricultural targets without greater use of biotech crops. Horizon 2020 is a European Union effort to use research and innovation to make it more competitive globally.
The letter was motivated, in part, by a controversial European proposal. It would allow EU member states to ban the cultivation of genetically modified crops within their own territory, even when those crops were approved for use in the entire EU, according to published reports.
What the study found
The statistical analysis, "A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops," was conducted by Wilhelm Klumper and Matin Qaim. It was published in PLoS One, a peer-reviewed, open-access, online scientific publication. PLoS is the San Francisco-based Public Library of Science.
Meta-analysis is a statistical approach for analyzing and combining the results of multiple, independent surveys.
Qaim is a professor of international food economics at Germany's University of Gottingen. Klumper is a doctoral candidate there.
The two analyzed previous studies from around the world on biotech crop production and found that adopting biotechnology reduced pesticide use by 37 percent and increased crop yields by 22 percent. Yield gains in biotech were even higher in developing countries than developed ones, they say.
Europe is an important market for some U.S. grains. For instance, Germany accounts for about 3 percent of U.S. soybean exports.
European GMO policies also are important because they influence how countries elsewhere in the world treat GMO crops.
The PLoS analysis was welcomed by GMO supporters, including U.S. Wheat Associates, which develops export markets for U.S. wheat.
"Our organization is on record in support of innovation in wheat, including research into biotechnology derived traits, because we believe farmers are going to have to produce more and better wheat in more sustainable ways as we move into a future with 9-plus billion people with increasing economic advantages. The study reinforces that biotech is a productive and sustainable option," Steve Mercer, U.S. Wheat Associates' vice president of communications tells Agweek.
GMO crops remain a controversial issue in Europe, as indicated by the proposal to allow individual EU member states to ban GMO crops.
Another sign of the strong feelings generated by GMO crops is the recent ouster of the EU's chief scientific adviser, a GM supporter.
GMO critics campaigned successfully to have Ann Glover removed from the post after she called opposition to GMO crops "a form of madness."