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Corn+Soybean Digest

Biotech Gets Vote Of Confidence

Despite continuing aversion to biotechnology in the European Union, farmers worldwide continue to plant transgenic crops at breakneck speed.

Globally, biotech acreage increased by 12% or 15 million acres in 2002, according to a new report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA). ISAAA is an organization with a mission to curb hunger and poverty by sharing crop biotech applications.

According to ISAAA, this is the sixth consecutive year farmers around the world have adopted biotech crops at a double-digit pace. Last year, global biotech acres reached 145 million acres. More than one-fifth of the global crop acreage of soybeans, corn, cotton and canola is now biotech.

And nearly 6 million farmers in 16 countries chose to plant biotech crops in 2002, up from 5 million farmers in 13 countries just the year before.

Those numbers are quite a vote of confidence for the biotech crops you plant. There's almost a hand-in-glove advantage, too, because there's more on the plus side of biotech than just the number of acres.

For example, biotech crops in the U.S. have also led to a 35% increase in no-till acres since 1996. In fact, 63% of growers surveyed cited herbicide-tolerant technology as the reason for going no-till, according to a recent Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) survey.

With no-till, of course, there's a reduction in soil erosion, better air and water quality and other benefits. So next time you're caught defending the value of biotechnology and subsequently, no-till, here are some stats from CTIC to keep handy.

  • Conservation tillage reduces soil erosion caused by wind and water by almost 1 billion tons/year, a 30% improvement since the early 1980s.

  • Farmers save more than 309 million gallons/year of fuel with conservation tillage practices. That savings reduces greenhouse gasses released from burning fuel by more than 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

  • Reduced soil erosion results in less sediment polluting water, which saved an estimated $3.5 billion in 2002 for such things as water treatment and lost recreation costs.

The result? “We now have more affordable drinking water because farmers tripled the number of acres they planted with conservation tillage in the past two decades,” says Dan Towery, CTIC natural resources specialist.

So as more biotech begets more conservation tillage, agronomic and conservation pluses keep stacking up. How could that dynamic duo ever be a bad thing?

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