QI am interested in learning more about how biotech seeds improve sustainability. Can you provide examples?

I am interested in learning more about how biotech seeds improve sustainability. Can you provide examples?

AExpert Answer

Herbicide-tolerant crops have encouraged farmers to practice no-till farming. In conventional farming, the fields are plowed ("tilled") to control weeds.  Because of the superior weed control from GM crops, farmers now have to till much less often. This has led to improved soil health and water retention, reduced runoff, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. (National Academy of Sciences, Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States, 2010) http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12804

 

Insect-resistant crops have greatly reduced the amount of insecticide that has to be applied to insect-protected crops. It’s estimated that an astounding 600 million pounds LESS active ingredient of insecticide has been used in the United States because of the use of GM crops, significantly reducing farmers’ costs and environmental footprint. (Brookes and Barfoot, Key environmental impacts of global GM crop use 1996-2011, in GM Crops and Food, 4/26/2013) http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/pdf/2013globalimpactstudyfinalreport.pdf)

 

In developing countries, the increased production from GM seeds has allowed small farmers to generate more income off of the same amount of land, thus reducing the practice of cutting down forest for more cropland.

 

The greatest gains are yet to come. GM plants with more efficient use of nitrogen and other important nutrients mean less fertilizer will be needed, saving farmers money, and less fertilizer ends up in the environment.  As mentioned previously, GM plants are available to withstand moderate water deficits. In the near future these same traits may allow the same yields or better while consuming less water. Such technologies have been demonstrated as effective in the laboratory and in field contexts.

 

Going forward, as we apply what we learning about organic, low-input and sustainable production practices to GM crops, we’ll see comparable or improved performance with less cost and environmental impact.

Posted on March 9, 2018
Hello, and thank you for your question! Scientists commonly use genetically engineering (GE) to add and subtract genes from ALL sorts of plants, from common weeds to potatoes from the Andes. Most GE is performed only to learn how plants work. While it’s relatively simple to change a plant’s genetics, it’s difficult and expensive to actually improve a plant’s genetics. Thus, only the most “important” crops are targets for GE. Smaller improvements are... Read More
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Posted on March 8, 2018
Hello, and thank you for your question! Scientists commonly use genetically engineering (GE) to add and subtract genes from ALL sorts of plants, from common weeds to potatoes from the Andes. Most GE is performed only to learn how plants work. While it’s relatively simple to change a plant’s genetics, it’s difficult and expensive to actually improve a plant’s genetics. Thus, only the most “important” crops are targets for GE. Smaller improvements are... Read More
Posted on March 9, 2018
Anyone who has traveled through the Southeast and seen kudzu vines along the highway knows that plants can evolve into a negative outcome. There is a similar concern that a GMO can produce negative outcomes in the environment.  Therefore, prior to approving their commercial planting, GMOs must be tested in contained field trials to ensure that they do not behave in ways that could cause problems. To prevent negative outcomes, GMOs must not have the ability to cross with wild... Read More

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