Andrew Kimbrell makes many misstatements in his letter "Our GM Food Fears Aren't Irrational" (Nov. 9): "The vast majority of GE crops are developed to resist and therefore promote pesticides, sharply increasing the amount of pesticides used in agriculture." In fact, a significant fraction of GE crops have been specifically, and successfully, crafted to supplant the spraying of chemical pesticides. According to an analysis by PG Economics, the cultivation of pest-resistant genetically engineered crops reduced pesticide spraying by 474 million kilograms (9%) between 1996 and 2011.
Mr. Kimbrell asserts that GE technology isn't "environmentally sustainable." One has to ask, compared with what? The introduction of GE crops (to supplant conventional ones) has obviated the need to cultivate vast additional amounts of arable land. Between 1996 and 2011, genetically engineered crops were responsible world-wide for the production of an additional 110 million tons of soybeans, 195 million tons of corn, 15.8 million tons of cotton lint and 6.6 million tons of canola. If modern GE plants had not been available to the 16.7 million farmers using the technology world-wide in 2011, maintaining global production levels at 2011 levels would have required plantings of more than 35 million additional acres.
Mr. Kimbrell claims that GE crops have "very little potential to alleviate poverty and hunger." For farmers growing GE crops, the net economic benefit at the farm level in 2011 was $19.8 billion, equal to an average income premium of $329 per acre. From 1996 to 2011, the global farm income gain was $98.2 billion; the economic benefits were divided about equally between farmers in developing and developed countries.
Henry I. Miller, M.D.