If 4 million cars were taken off the road in a single year, stopping 9 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide being discharged, most environmentalists would whoop with joy. But what if the same saving came from planting genetically modified crops?
This is the claim of an annual audit of GM crops by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), which is funded largely by the GM industry.
The audit, published on 18 January, bases its estimate on GM planting in 2005 in the US, Canada and Argentina. Graham Brookes of PG Economics in Dorchester, UK, who supplied the data, says 85 per cent of the savings come from the fact that farmers growing weedkiller-resistant GM crops don’t have to plough their fields to get rid of weeds, so organic matter in the soil is not exposed to the atmosphere. This, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, prevents the release of 300 kilograms of CO2 per year per hectare. The rest of the figure is from fuel savings (Agbioforum, vol 9, p 139).
Gundula Azeez of the Soil Association, which represents UK organic farmers, says the ISAAA is only interested in promoting GM crops.
New Scientist, 2588, 29 january 2007.