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There is a pretty heated debate going on over the use of genetically modified crops.The disagreements tend to focus on the long-term implications.
But in the short-term, one thing seems to be true: genetically modified crops give dirt-poor farmers across the world a chance at a better life.
In a new report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the Georg-August-University of Goettingen tracked the use of genetically modified cotton by smallholder farmers in India over the course of six years.
They found that farmers using the genetically enhanced Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton increased their cotton yields by 24 per cent and their overall profits by 50 per cent. They also saw an 18 per cent increase in household consumption (meaning small farmers spent about $321 more per year).
The study disputes a common argument that genetically modified crops will hurt small-scale farmers who eventually won’t be able to pay for the crops that were grown on their own land.
In fact, in 2011, 90 per cent of Indian cotton fields, the majority of which are owned by small farmers, were growing Bt cotton.
According to the study, both government intervention in seed prices and increases in competition for the new technology help to boost the profit lines for these farmers. Both factors, therefore, must be encouraged in order for genetically mutated crops to make sense on a larger scale.
While the use of GMOs in agriculture remains a contentious issue — there are innumerable environmental, health and socio-economic issues — one thing is clear: genetically mutated crops can mean a brighter future for poor farmers across the world.
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