Biotechnology & variation in average yields
A decline in yield variability is a universal characteristic of the U.S. crops included in this study. It is not just a characteristic of the biotech crops. Moreover, little difference appears to exist in the size of the decline in yield variability across biotech and non-biotech crops.
While this study cannot preclude biotechnology as an explanation for the decline in yield variability observed for corn, cotton, and soybeans; it suggests more universal factors are likely occurring. One such factor could be that both biotech and traditional breeding methods have been equally successful at creating varieties that reduce yield variation. A second such factor could be that weather was more favorable across the various U.S. production regions during 1996-2011 than 1940-1995.
To the extent that the decline in crop yield variability is permanent and not transitory, it generates benefits for consumers of crops. A more reliable supply reduces the size of stocks that need to be carried to assure an adequate supply of food before the next harvest, thus reducing the cost of food. A more reliable supply also enhances the ability to expand non-food uses of crops. Non-food uses, such as energy production, require large capital investments. Large capital investments are more economically viable when utilized at close to full capacity. A stable input supply increases the odds that a plant can operate closer to full capacity.