What are the environmental benefits of GM crops?
One of the significant environmental benefits of GM crops is the dramatic reduction in pesticide use, with the size of the reduction varying between crops and introduced trait.
- A study assessing the global economic and environmental impacts of biotech crops for the first 16 years (1996-2011) of adoption showed that the technology has reduced pesticide spraying by 474 million kg and has reduced environmental footprint associated with pesticide use by 18.1%. The technology has also significantly reduced the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture equivalent to removing 10 million cars from the roads.2
- In the USA, adoption of GM crops resulted in pesticide use reduction of 46.4 million pounds in 2003.3
- The use of Bt cotton in China resulted in pesticide use reduction of 78,000 tons of formulated pesticides in 2001. This corresponds to about a quarter of all the pesticides sprayed in China in the mid-1990s.4Additionally, the use of Bt cotton can substantially reduce the risk and incidence of pesticide poisonings to farmers.5
- Herbicide tolerant crops have facilitated the continued expansion of conservation tillage, especially no-till cultivation system, in the USA. The adoption of conservation and no-till cultivation practices saved nearly 1 billion tons of soil per year.6
- Biotech cotton has been documented to have a positive effect on the number and diversity of beneficial insects in the US and Australian cotton fields.7
- Adoption of Bt corn in the Philippines did not show an indication that Bt corn had negative effect on insect abundance and diversity.15