Non-GM cotton more profitable (22/2/2008)

NOTE: GM cotton was planted on almost 93% of U.S. cotton acres in 2007 and there has been considerable hype about increased yields, particularly from Bollgard cotton. But this multi-year study of GM and non-GM cotton cultivation shows, 'When considered as a whole, no transgenic technology system provided greater returns than a nontransgenic system in any year or location.' (item 2)

In other words, whatever's driving the uptake of this technology it does not appear to be profitability.


Are Transgenic Cotton Cultivars More Profitable?
Study shows profitability was most closely associated with yields and not the transgenic technologies

American Society of Agronomy

MADISON, WI, FEBRUARY 11, 2008 -- Transgenic cotton cultivars were planted on almost 93% of U.S. cotton acres in 2007. Transgenic cultivars with pest-managing traits are dual-purpose products. The cultivars produce lint and seed, while the expressed propriety traits provide part of the crop's insect management and/or enable use of broad-spectrum herbicides for weed management.

Growers must choose among an increasing number of cultivars and an increasingly diverse spectrum of pest management options linked to the cultivars. In recent years, the number of different transgenic cotton production options that a grower may purchase has outpaced the capacity of the official cultivar trials (OCTs) to adequately evaluate their economic value.

First, large numbers of cultivars are being offered; but moreover OCTs when conducted with uniform, and generally very high levels of pest management, do not fully assess the value of the transgenic cultivars. In fact, the pest management options and their associated potential for cost reductions are the principal features of the current transgenic cultivars.

This paper addresses the challenges posed by the advent of transgenic, pest-managing technologies, and directly addresses the question most relevant to growers, 'Will transgenic cultivars return more profit?' Results from the study were published in the January-February 2008 issue of Agronomy Journal.

Field experiments were conducted from 2001-2004 to compare production systems utilizing cotton cultivars possessing different transgenic technologies. Cultivars of each type of technology were managed in accordance with their respective genetic capabilities. In 2001 and 2002 selection of the Roundup Ready technology system resulted in reduced returns to the producer, while higher returns were attained from non-transgenic, Bollgard and Bollgard/Roundup Ready technologies. Cultivar differences were noted among the non-transgenic cultivars.

Again in 2003, selection of the transgenic cultivars reduced returns, while similar, higher returns were attained from non-transgenic technologies.

According to the authors, 'Collectively these results indicate that profitability was most closely associated with yields and not the transgenic technologies.' Continued research is necessary to analyze the 2005 and 2006 results with more recent types of transgenic cotton cultivars.

Members of the University of Georgia Cotton Team and a Cotton Incorporated agronomist and economist were the principal investigators for these studies that were partially funded by Cotton Incorporated. This project is an example of innovative, multi-disciplinary research that is necessary to address the questions most relevant to growers in the current economic context.

The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at http://agron.scijournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/100/1/42.

Agronomy Journal is a peer-reviewed, international journal of agronomy published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy.

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) www.agronomy.org, is an educational organization helping its 8,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.

Contact: Sara Uttech, American Society of Agronomy, 608-268-4948, suttechagronomy.org

[extracted from full paper - deatils at end]

Lint and seed yield were consistently linked with increasing profitability in the six systems trials conducted in Georgia. Fiber quality of the lint, quantified as price received per kg of lint, was important in certain years and locations but not to the same degree as yield of lint and seed. Therefore, under current pricing structures, yield potential should be the primary factor evaluated when considering profit potential of a specific cultivar.

When considered as a whole, no transgenic technology system provided greater returns than a nontransgenic system in any year or location. The predictability of pest management and the convenience that growers attribute to the transgenic cultivars implies that they save management time and therefore labor not accounted for in the application costs of insecticides and herbicides. Thus, general use of transgenic cultivars could create savings at a farm enterprise level. One benefit often attributed to transgenic production systems is the ability to farm more hectares with the same number of personnel or farm the same number of hectares with fewer personnel.

The RR system was consistently the worst performer in terms of returns in all years and locations evaluated. Generally, these cultivars expressed lower yields than cultivars from other systems. These data contrast with the observation made by Bryant et al. (2003), who found that high yields and returns could be realized by carefully selecting for yields among the cultivars in all technology systems evaluated. A mixed response was noted for the B2R and LL systems. Differences in yields were found among nontransgenic cultivars and among those possessing the BR and B2R technologies. Cultivars expressing technologies that were recently registered, such as the LL and B2R cultivars, tended to have low yields relative to technologies that had been registered for several years.

Collectively, these results indicated that profitability was most closely associated with yield and not with technology. Similar to the conclusions of Bryant et al. (2003), cultivar selection for profitability must focus on yield potential.

Published online 11 January 2008
Published in Agron J 100:42-51 (2008)
DOI: 10.2134/agrojnl2006.0259
2008 American Society of Agronomy
677 S. Segoe Rd., Madison, WI 53711 USA


Economic Comparison of Transgenic and Nontransgenic Cotton Production Systems in Georgia P. Josta, D. Shurleyb, S. Culpepperb, P. Robertsb,*, R. Nicholsc, J. Reevesc and S. Anthonyd a 106 Corvina Dr., Clayton, NC 27520 b Univ. of Georgia, College of Agric. and Environ. Sci., P.O. Box 748, Tifton, GA 31794 c Cotton Inc., 6399 Weston Pkwy., Cary, NC 27513 d USDA-ARS Cotton Ginning Res. Unit, P.O. Box 256, Stoneville, MS 38776

* Corresponding author ([email protected]).

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