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According to a study from Canada, genetically modified crops play an important role as these crops can aid the agricultural sector in reducing the emissions of greenhouse gas. The study was published in 2021 in a peer review journal- Sustainability. Globally, the agricultural industry contributes around 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily due to the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste.
The study suggests that herbicide-tolerant GMO crops and glyphosate can help increase soil carbon sequestration. Thus, it keeps carbon dioxide trapped in the ground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. Adopting GMO crops in Europe could reduce approximately 7.5 percent of the continent’s total greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Based on the image below, GMO crops can help reduce carbon opportunity costs (COCs) and production emissions (PEMs).
Several reviews of scientific literature suggest that the adoption of GMO crops can lead to ecological, economic, and health benefits through increasing farm profits, higher crop yields, and lower chemical pesticide use. The increase in GMO crop yields can have numerous positive effects on climate change mitigation. As the world population and food demand increase, an increase in crop yields can reduce the need to add new land into production. Thus, avoiding additional carbon emissions from land-use change.
The 2021 COP26 identified soil management and the efficient use of nutrients as the essential components of sustainable food production systems, global food security, and climate change resilience. Tillage or plowing- a form of weed control- releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and leads to soil infertility.
The adoption of GMO crops and the use of fertilizers associated with these crops guarantees effective weed control, and tillage will not be necessary. Preventing soil tillage is an effective way to increase carbon sequestration in agriculture.
Researchers developed a carbon accounting framework to estimate carbon sequestration in the province of Saskatchewan in Canada over 30 years. An online survey was also conducted of Saskatchewan farmers between November 2020 and April 2021. The results obtained suggested that the adoption of GMO crops facilitated significant changes (improved weed control etc.) in land management practices by the farmers in Saskatchewan.
According to Dr. Stuart Smyth, associate professor in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at the University of Saskatchewan, the findings presented in the study display the hypocrisy of environmental activists that call for improved sustainable agriculture practices yet call for bans on GMO crops and the use of glyphosate. He further adds sustainable practices are not possible without advanced and innovative technologies like GMO crops.
In conclusion, genetically modified crops have the potential to play a significant role in reducing greenhouse emissions. By increasing crop yields, reducing the use of harmful pesticides, and improving the efficiency of agriculture, GMO crops can help to reduce emissions from agriculture and mitigate the impact of climate change. However, it is important to consider the potential risks and uncertainties associated with the use of GMO crops, as well as the need for further research and development. Ultimately, the role of GMO crops in reducing greenhouse emissions will depend on a range of factors, including scientific advancements, public acceptance, and government policies. By carefully balancing these considerations, we can work towards a future in which agriculture plays a key role in reducing emissions and helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change.