One of the first comprehensive assessments of the advantages of genetically modified crops indicates they are already saving farmers in the US billions of dollars every year. According to a report in the Financial Times newspaper, a new study suggests only consumer resistance is preventing farmers from multiplying these savings many times over.

Carried out by the Washington-based National Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy with backing from the biotechnology industry and the Rockefeller Foundation, the study looked at 30 crops that have enhanced pest resistance via genetic modification, including fruit and vegetables as well as cereals.

Farmers were seen benefiting through improved finances, with GM soya beans returning the largest benefit. A massive 63% of the US crop, planted this year on 49 million acres, has been genetically engineered to resist Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. The Financial Times reported the NCFAP study as claiming that the average saving in weed control is US$15 per acre.

Significantly, the study did not assess the negative aspects advanced by anti-GM activists and organisations. While it examined the gains to be made to the environment through lower use of pesticides, the study neglected to address possible health hazards or the impact of GM crops on wildlife.