Because they are able to use inputs more efficiently, farms adopting Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn seeds fare better in terms of production and income compared to non-Bt corn farms, a recent study in Isabela province showed.
The paper “Biotechnology and smallhold agriculture: the impact of genetically-engineered seed adoption on corn farm efficiency” by Albert P. Aquino (PCARRD), Alberto R. Domingo (Isabela State University), Sonny P. Tababa (SEARCA) and Fezoil Luz C. Decena (PCARRD) suggests that Bt corn farms post higher yields because they are more technically efficient and are therefore able to realize higher incomes.
These findings came from an empirical study of 167 smallhold corn farms (66 are Bt-corn users, 101 are non-Bt) in Isabela during the wet season of 2004.
The average yield of Bt corn farms sampled was 26% higher than that of the non-Bt farms. The study attributed the yield disparity to differences in technical efficiency between these farm types.
A farm is said to be technically efficient if it is producing the maximum output it can given the resources it employs (such as labor and machinery) and technology available.
Using econometric methods, the study estimated that Bt corn farms have a mean technical efficiency index of 0.76 compared to 0.66 in non-Bt corn farms, indicating that Bt corn adoptors were able to produce more output for a given set of inputs.
A technical efficiency index of 1.00 indicates that the farm is operating at the most technically efficient or best production level.
It was found that there was strong correlation between technical efficiency and yield among the sample farms, implying that the more efficient Bt corn farms are indeed more productive.
Further, the study pointed out that the overall technical efficiency index of all farms in the sample (which includes Bt corn farms) was almost 50% higher than those of the entirely non-Bt corn farms sampled in a 1999 study (by Aquino) in the same province.
These results provide a basis for the promotion Bt corn technology to make farms more technically efficient and profitable.
The use of Bt corn has been a cause of much debate particularly on food safety grounds. However, as mentioned by the paper, various studies worldwide have demonstrated the safety of Bt corn. The paper cited the acceptance and use of Bt corn in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, South Africa, the United States, and Uruguay.
The paper appeared in the March 2007 issue of the Asia Pacific Economic Journal (Volume 4, Number 2).