SAO PAULO, March 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Stop using enough fresh water to supply Recife and Porto Alegre for a year. Reduce the volume of CO2 emissions going into the atmosphere by the equivalent of what would be offset by 22 million trees. Refrain from burning enough fuel to fill the tanks of 465 thousand diesel vehicles. Stop spreading more than 120 thousand tons of pesticides on Brazilian fields. These are some of the benefits from the adoption of biotechnology in Brazilian agriculture projected for the next 10 years, according to data ascertained by Celeres Ambiental in a study for the Associacao Brasileira de Sementes e Mudas (ABRASEM - Brazilian Association of Seeds and Seedlings).
"Modernizing agriculture and investing in technology are the main approaches for rural farmers, so that we can overcome the challenge of feeding more and more people while maintaining or reducing the productive area, generating revenue for the farmer and minimizing the impact on the environment," said Narciso Barison Neto, the association's president,. "In the case of seeds, which is the business of members of ABRASEM, biotechnology is the main technological tool to unite productivity, competitive costs and reduction of environmental harm."
In the second half of 2010, Celeres (which is responsible for the economic part of the study) and Celeres Ambiental visited 396 rural properties in different parts of Brazil for the fourth consecutive year, conducting a survey in the field of the social, environmental and economic benefits of the genetically modified crops currently approved in the country - soybeans, corn and cotton.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the world must have the capacity to produce food for 9 billion people in 2050, on a planet with increasingly fewer available productive areas. "This means that farmers must be more efficient with their crops and reduce their dependency on pesticides and excessive water use. The increase of agricultural production must be sustainable, and biotechnology shows that this is possible in Brazil," said biologist Paula Carneiro, an environmental specialist.
The evolution of transgenic corn
The case of transgenic corn in Brazil is exemplary in the context of world agricultural biotechnology. Keeping track of the four most recent harvests at ground level, Celeres has borne witness, since the first planting in Brazil in 2008, to developments in the adoption of the first insect-resistant transgenic varieties. "What was most striking was the rapid adoption of the technology by growers," notes Anderson Galvao, who oversaw Celeres' economic assessment of transgenic crops in the ABRASEM study.
In the 2009/2010 harvest analyzed in the studies, 32.5% of Brazilian corn production used transgenic varieties. One year later - and three years after the arrival of GM corn in the fields - this level reached 57%, going up to 75% for the winter harvest. By way of comparison, according to Galvao, GM soybeans, whose planting in Brazil was approved for the 2005/2006 harvest (but were already being planted on Brazilian soil illegally since the beginning of the decade), took nine years to achieve the same 57% for the total Brazilian soybean crop.
Biologist Paula Carneiro points out that it was primarily the social and environmental benefits of planting transgenic corn that stimulated the rapid acceptance by growers, since they entailed significant economies of inputs. In the case of pesticides, for example, in the 2009/2010 harvest, farmers economized the equivalent of 2.7 thousand tons of active ingredients in their applications to their crops. This amount was double the reduction they achieved in the previous harvest (2008/2009), which was the first involving transgenic hybrids in Brazil.
In the next ten years, the adoption of biotechnology for growing corn will make possible a reduction in the area sown with this crop of 49.5 million de hectares. "This result should be seen as an environmental and economic saving, that growers will be able to make use of later on, and thus they will be acting in a more sustainable fashion. The other crops that are adopting agricultural biotechnology in Brazil - cotton and soybeans - also allow for a no less significant saving in the use of farm land, of 9.3 million hectares," Paula Carneiro explains.
Breakdown of environmental benefits with the adoption of biotechnology in Brazil (Annual amounts based on projected adoption) 00/01 08/09 09/10 19/20 H2O: Net benefit (billion liters/year) 0.4 2.1 3.6 18.1 Diesel: Net benefit (million liters /year) 3.7 17.8 29.7 150.8 CO2 equivalent: Net benefit (1000 tons CO2/year) 9.8 47.1 78.8 399.9 Use of active ingredients: Net benefit (1000 tons a.i./year) 0.2 1.3 2.7 17.2 Source: Celeres
The full range of studies is available at the websites of ABRASEM, Celeres Ambiental and Celeres on the internet: http://www.abrasem.com.br, http://www.celeresambiental.com.br and http://www.celeres.com.br.