KNOW THE BASICS

Determining the “general benefits of GMOs“ is a complex issue, because GM-derived benefits depend on many variable parameters, including the crop, GM trait(s), farming systems and environmental conditions. The quantifiable benefits of GM crops can therefore vary from crop to crop, season to season and farm to farm. For this reason many different studies have been done around the world to estimate the benefits of the various, currently available GM crop-trait combinations and as can be expected these yielded variable results.

One way in which to make sense of these complex data sets is to subject them to meta-analyses. A meta-analysis is a statistical, analytical technique that combines the findings of various independent studies to provide a more precise estimate of the overall impact of a particular variable. Good meta-analyses cover all relevant studies, give due weight to the size of the different studies, look for the presence of heterogeneity and explore the robustness of the main findings using sensitivity analyses.

The findings from a recent meta-analysis on the impacts of the currently available GM crops concluded as follows:

impact-of-biotech_0 copy

View this graphic on its original source: http://www.foodinsight.org/

The original data for the above infographic was published by W Klumper & M Qaim: A meta-analysis of the impacts of genetically modified crops. PLoS One 9, e111629 (2014).

Research conducted in South Africa by the University of Pretoria (M Gouse and co-workers) found similar results for commercial farmers. South Africa’s smallholder farmers also derive direct economic benefits from certain GM crops, but some seem to rate the social benefits associated with these crops in their particular context as even more important. These include time savings due to the reduced labour requirements and the elimination of the challenges associated with the application of chemical insecticides (which of course also has a safety benefit). Insect resistant grain stored in informal systems also have lower levels of fungal/ mycotoxin contamination due to the lower levels of insect damage. Please refer to the literature database on the socio-economics on GM crops on this website for more information on these topics.