The headline on the New York Times “Green” blog post read “A Limit to Gains From Genetically Engineered Cotton.” Sounds dark and foreboding, doesn’t it?
In fact, the research study cited by the blog post was a highly-positive long-term study of the value of genetically engineered cotton in India. The study closely examined the yields on small farms in India and concluded:
Building on unique panel data collected between 2002 and 2008, and controlling for nonrandom selection bias in technology adoption, we show that Bt has caused a 24% increase in cotton yield per acre through reduced pest damage and a 50% gain in cotton proﬁt among smallholders. These beneﬁts are stable; there are even indications that they have increased over time. We further show that Bt cotton adoption has raised consumption expenditures, a common measure of household living standard, by 18% during the 2006–2008 period. We conclude that Bt cotton has created large and sustainable beneﬁts, which contribute to positive economic and social development in India.
Now, I ask you…does that study sound like it deserves a post with a negative headline?
A better, more accurate headline would have been “Genetically modified cotton shown to raise long-term living standards for small farmers in India. ” An item on the Nature website, based off the same study, used the headline, “Genetically modified cotton gets high marks in India.”
Or, if you want the forward spin, “Can new technologies keep farm incomes rising in India?” Or, ”Should activists rethink opposition to GM crops?”
This is not just nitpicking. The only way out of our current economic malaise is innovation–innovation in IT, innovation in biosciences, innovation in energy. From that perspective, an anti-innovation bias at the NYT is also anti-growth and pro-stagnation.