Do GM crops have socio-economic benefits? 15.4 million farmers around the world who planted these crops on 148 million hectares (365 million acres) in 2010 would most likely answer with a resounding ‘yes,’ thanks to higher profits from higher yields and environmental benefits that also translate into savings. In response to a European Commission report, EuropaBio notes that a new study also launched this week on GM crops' global socio-economic and environmental impacts shows their positive impacts worldwide (1).

The European Commission report on GM crops’ socio-economic implications should encourage European policymakers to reflect on this important topic – and the social and economic benefits Europe is missing out on by not approving more GM crops for cultivation. The European Commission report recognizes that farmers cultivating GM crops “could benefit from higher yields.”

According to a study (1), farmers planting GM crops have indeed experienced results:

  • Higher productivity: growing more on less land
  • Better income for farmers: global farm income benefit of over €7 billion ($10.07 billion) in 2009
  • 53 percent of farm income gain in 2009 to farmers in developing countries, and 90 percent of those who plant GM crops are small, resource-poor farmers who live in developing countries
  • Less need to till the soil, which saves fuel and money, while reducing carbon emissions – removing the equivalent of 6.9 million cars from the road in 2009 (a decrease of 17.7 billion kg of CO2)
  • Cost savings, for example through reduced applications of crop protection products – 393 million kg reduction in 2009
  • Two-thirds of the benefits of growing GM are shared among farmers and consumers, while one-third goes to the developers and seed suppliers
  • Higher yields help to preserve natural habitats (2)
  • Less water needed for some GM crops