As a result of increasing benefits from biotechnology-derived (biotech) crop varieties, farmers are adopting the technology with greater ease than ever before, according to a new study update released by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy.

In 2004, U.S. farmers planted biotech crops on 118 million acres, an increase of 11 percent over the previous year. Compared to conventional crops, biotech varieties increased food production by 6.6 billion pounds, a 24 percent improvement from 2003, and provided $2.3 billion in additional net returns for U.S. growers, a 21 percent increase from the previous year. Biotech crops also reduced pesticide use by an additional 34 percent, or 15.6 million pounds. Pesticide use dropped by 15.6 million from 2003 to 2004.

“After nine years of commercialization, the benefits of biotech crops are self-evident, and growers are responding to better yields and greater financial return by further increasing the number of acres planted to these varieties,” said Jill Long Thompson, Ph.D., and Chief Executive Officer of the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy. “Obviously, these crops have demonstrated great benefits to growers, but what we're seeing now is the significant extent to which these benefits increase each year.”

The study examined 11 case studies of six biotech crops planted in the United States in 2004 — corn, soybean, cotton, papaya, canola and squash — and is based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service and surveys of crop specialists from various universities.