Genetic modified crops are widely farmed all over the world, for example by maize farmers in developing countries.
Photo: Matin Qaim

Genetic engineering raises yields

Genetically modified crops can reduce the use of pesticides and provide higher yields, report scientists from Göttingen University.

Farming genetically modified crops lead to a reduced use of pesticides worldwide and brings higher yields. This has been demonstrated by a meta-analysis carried out by agricultural economists at Göttingen University (Germany) and published at the beginning of November 2014. The scientists analysed some 147 original studies from all over the world: Wherever genetically modified crops are cultivated there was on average a 37 per cent drop in the use of chemical pesticides. Simultaneously, yields increased by 22 per cent. Despite the more expensive seeds, farmers cultivating genetically modified crops could obtain on average 68 per cent higher profits.

According to the scientists, there are also differences between the crop traits and farming regions. More positive impacts on yield and the use of pesticides are found with insect-resistant crops than with herbicide-tolerant crops. And farmers in developing countries have been able to raise their profits to a greater extent than farmers in industrialised countries.

Genetically modified crops have been cultivated for some 20 years in numerous countries and in the meantime account for more than ten per cent of farming land worldwide. Insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant maize and soybean crops are cultivated on large areas particularly in North and South America. But many small farmers in India, China and other countries of Asia and Africa have also turned to using genetically modified seeds.

More information:
Original publication: Wilhelm Klümper & Matin Qaim. A meta-analysis of the impacts of genetically modified crops. PLOS ONE 2014.

(Georg-August-Universität Göttingen/ile)