As this illustrates, the most striking benefits are environmental. The report calculates that a cumulative total of 965 million pounds of pesticide have not been used because of the adoption of GM crops. The biggest impacts are from insect-resistant cotton and herbicide-tolerant maize, both of which need fewer sprayings than their conventional equivalents.
The use of less fuel in farming GM crops results in less carbon-dioxide emission. In addition, herbicide-tolerant GM crops can often be grown with little or no plowing in stubble fields that are sprayed with herbicides. The result is to allow more carbon to remain in the soil, since plowing releases carbon as microbial exhalation. Taken together, Messrs. Brookes and Barfoot estimate, this means that the GM crops grown in 2010 had an effect on carbon-dioxide emissions equivalent to taking 8.6 million cars off the road.
There is a rich irony here. The rapidly growing use of shale gas in the U.S. has also driven down carbon-dioxide emissions by replacing coal in the generation of electricity. U.S. carbon emissions are falling so fast they are now back to levels last seen in the 1990s. So the two technologies most reliably and stridently opposed by the environmental movement-genetic modification and fracking-have been the two technologies that most reliably cut carbon emissions.
Monday, October 8, 2012
Genetically Modified Foods and Fracking Might Have a Positive Impact on the Environment
From the ever-brilliant Matt Ridley: