Peer-reviewed Article: Evaluating the holistic costs and benefits of corn production systems in Minnesota, US


Harpinder Sandhu, Nadia El-Hage Scialabba, Chris Warner, Fatemeh Behzadnejad, Kieran Keohane, Richard Houston & Daniel Fujiwara, March 2020

Global agriculture aims to minimize its impacts on environment and human health while maintaining its productivity. This requires a comprehensive understanding of its benefits and costs to ecosystems and society. Here, we apply a new evaluation framework developed by the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture and Food (TEEBAgriFood) to assess key benefits and costs on the production side of genetically modified (GM) and organic corn systems in Minnesota, USA. The market value of GM corn is $4.5 billion, and only $31.8 million for organic corn using production data and market prices of 2017. GM corn generates revenue of $1488 per hectare (at $121 per MT), which is significantly lower than the organic corn at $2793 per hectare (at $294 per MT). Using a novel three-stage wellbeing valuation, analysis of the associations between corn production intensity and subjective measures of general health and wellbeing indicates that the total non-financial health cost associated with GM corn is $427.50 per hectare or $1.3 billion annually. We also find that the total annual environmental cost associated with GM corn production is $179 per hectare or $557.65 million within Minnesota. The use of the evaluation framework can help to improve decision making at farm and policy level to develop sustainable agriculture in order to minimize environmental and health related costs to society and economy.

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