Results of a meta-analysis published in the latest issue of PLOS paint a favorable picture of genetically modified crops — which make a positive impact on farmers, crop yields and profits.

Photo Credit: Stuart Williams via flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The last two decades have seen several investigations into the effect of GM crops on things like crop yields, pesticide use, and farmer profits. A newly published meta-analysis, conducted by researchers Wilhelm Klümper and Matin Qaim, both of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at Georg-August-University of Goettingen in Germany, combines the results of several of these investigations, and finds the agronomic and economic impacts of GM crops to be beneficial, large, and significant on a global scale:

On average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.

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Their findings, which appear free of charge in the latest issue of PLOS ONE, include a number of key considerations. For instance, yield gains and pesticide reductions tend to be greater for crops engineered to be resistant to insecticides than for those modified to be tolerant of herbicides like Roundup. Likewise, crop yields and farmer profits tend to be higher in developing countries than in developed ones, though the net economic and agronomic impact on the latter is still positive. These are examples of GM technology's "impact heterogeneity," or its tendency to have different effects depending on a crop's engineered trait, or the geographic region in which it is used.

Notwithstanding this heterogeneity, the researchers write that their "findings reveal that there is robust evidence of GM crop benefits," and that "such evidence may help to gradually increase public trust in this promising technology."

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Read the full scientific study in PLOS ONE.