As Kurt Bradford points out in this response to another question on this site:
“Human society is supported by its ability to produce sufficient food for the total population while at the same time not using up or degrading the capacity to continue to produce that amount of food in the future.”
GMOs support society by producing safe and abundant crops while conserving natural resources. Cecilia Chi-Ham, Director of Science & Technology at PIPRA, also provides insight into how GMOs impact society in this response. GMOs have a variety of impacts on society – and really, there are too many to name – so instead, we’ll explore the 6 main ways GMOs impact society.
6 Ways GMOs Impact Society
1. GMOs provide economic benefits to millions of consumers.
While the cost of food is impacted by various factors (the price of oil affects transportation costs; temperature changes can cause drought; etc.), GMOs play an important role in keeping those prices as low as possible. It’s estimated that corn-based products would be priced 6 percent higher and soybean-based products would be 10 percent higher if GM crops were not grown, according to a 2010 study by Graham Brookes et al.
2. GMOs reduce agriculturally related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Agricultural economist Graham Brookes reports:
“GMOs have helped farmers reduce their environmental footprint by allowing them to use fewer inputs and enabling a shift to reduced tillage. These practices have led to less time spent on a tractor, less fuel used and fewer emissions. As a result, GMOs have helped reduce CO2 emissions equivalent to removing 12.4 million cars from the road for one year. They have also led to 1.2 billion pounds less pesticides being used between 1996 and 2013.”
3. GMOs reduce soil erosion.
Herbicide tolerant (HT) crops enable more farmers to adopt conservation tillage because they help farmers to more effectively and efficiently control weeds at a lower cost than comparable conventional cropping systems. Florida farmer Lawson Mozley explains that with herbicide tolerant GM crops, weeds can be sprayed and left in the field to protect the soil. Then the incoming crop is planted directly into the leftover organic matter, without turning over the soil.
4. GMOs conserve water.
Farmers utilize many tools to conserve water, including drip irrigation systems and conservation tillage practices. GMOs provide another tool that farmers can employ to help conserve water. Herbicide tolerant GM crops along with conservation tillage aid in soil moisture retention, which can reduce the need to irrigate. But, GMOs can help reduce water use in another way – drought tolerance. This GM trait can help crops cope with stress and yield more when periods of drought occur– without supplemental water from irrigation.
5. GMOs substantially decrease the use of many agricultural chemicals.
A common misconception is that the adoption of GM crops have increased the use of pesticides, when just the opposite is true. Overall GM crops, including crops with the “Bt” (Bacillus thuringiensis) trait for insect resistance, have contributed to a 37 percent decrease in pesticide applications. Learn more about some GMOs have led to the reduction in pesticide here.
6. GMO technology also has potential to improve the lives of millions in the developing world.
Jim Gaffney, Strategy Lead for Biotech Affairs and Regulatory at DuPont Pioneer, provides this insight:
“While serving in the Peace Corps in Cameroon, Central Africa and more recently in business travel to Africa, I’ve observed the difference that technology can make. The average yield of U.S. maize is 165 bushels per acre; the average yield for the African continent is closer to 20 bushels per acre. We can do better in Africa and in most other geographies. GMO technology is one tool to help us get there while enabling farmers a chance at greater sustainability, prosperity, health and nutrition, benefits which have positive and far-reaching ripple effects for all of society.”
If you have additional questions, please let us know. Also, feel free to contribute to the discussion in the comment section below.