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New report questions whether planting Bt corn worth the cost

(Dec. 13, 2001 – CropChoice news) – Over the past six years, farmers who planted transgenic Bt corn have lost about $92 million or an average of about $1.31 per acre according to the first farm-level economic analysis of the product.

"When Does It Pay to Plant Bt Corn: Farm-Level Economic Impacts of Bt Corn,1996-2001," is by Dr. Charles Benbrook of Benbrook Consulting Services. Dr. Benbrook previously served as the Executive Director of the National Academy of Science Board of Agriculture. A four page summary of the report as well as the full 33 page report can be downloaded at: http://www.iatp.org

The report found that from 1996-2001, American farmers paid at least $659 million in price premiums to plant Bt corn, while boosting their harvest by only 276 million bushels - worth some $567 million in economic gain. The bottom line for farmers is a net loss of $92 million - about $1.31 per acre.

"On average, yield increases due to Bt corn have not increased farm income enough to cover the higher costs of Bt seed," says Dr. Benbrook. "The jump in per acre seed expenditures with Bt corn is by far the biggest in history linked to a single new trait."

Bt corn is genetically engineered to express the protein-based toxins of Bt in plant tissues for the control of two Lepidopteran insects, the European Corn Borer (ECB) and the Southwestern Corn Borer (SWCB). The economic value of using Bt corn depends largely on whether infestation levels of ECB/SWCB impact yields.

"We estimate that the U.S. has foregone about 350 million bushels of corn export sales to the European Union since 1996/97 largely because the EU doesn't want GMOs," says Dan McGuire, of the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA). "The findings of this report are part of a triple negative for farmers…lost corn exports, lower corn prices and less net profit from GMO (Bt) corn, which is why the ACGA cautions farmers on their seed choices."

This report is part of series being published by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Genetically Engineered Food Alert on economic and legal issues related to genetically engineered crops.