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Biotechnology has been used widely across the globe over the past ten years to improve agricultural production. The commercial development of the technology is increasing rapidly - in 2003 the worldwide cultivation area for Genetically Modified plants (GMOs) was 167.2 million acres (67.7 million hectares). Economic factors have fuelled the rapid growth in the use of modern biotechnology in agriculture throughout the developed and developing world. These economic factors are important drivers for an increasing number of farmers, food industry players and public institutions who are developing and increasingly using the technology in their everyday work and lives.

Macro-economic benefits: “Biotechnology is now an industry in its own right: its high potential will make it a cornerstone of a competitive knowledge-based economy in Europe” (Erkki Liikanen, former EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society, 2003). The adoption of GM crops worldwide could boost the overall income of all regions worldwide by $316 billion a year by 2015 (Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics, 2003). The potential benefits for Europe are huge and if it wishes to play a major role in the global agricultural market, Europe needs to fully exploit the many opportunities and benefits that biotechnology can bring.  Indeed, many of the new crops were developed originally through scientific research conducted by European companies based in Europe. Elsewhere in the world, such as in China, huge public and private resources are being deployed to further exploit the opportunities offered by this new technology.

Daily benefits: One of the major daily benefits for farmers is the sheer convenience of managing a biotech crop: less spraying, less day-to-day monitoring of the crop, less loss to pests and reduced labour.  This translates into real economic benefits in many cases. For example, if UK farmers introduced biotechnology improved sugar beet, they would benefit from a return of £154 per hectare (£23 million in year 1) without counting additional benefits like benefits for biodiversity or reductions in tractor usage. (Source: “Agricultural Biotechnology: potential for use in developing countries”, M. Foster, ABARE Senior Economist, Australian Commodities, vol. 10, no 1, March 2003)

Other information


If you want to know more about this issue, please read:
Economic Impact of Crop Biotechnology

The Global GM Market: Implications for the European Food Chain

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The Economics of Non-GMO Segregation and Identity Preservation  

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