Can GM crops help sustain biodiversity?

All forms of farming have major impacts on biodiversity, especially when new land is brought into cultivation. Agriculture uses 70% of the world’s fresh water, occupies close to 40% of all land (12% for crops and 27% for grassland) and accounts for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) estimates that by the year 2050 half of the current arable land will become unusable.

At the same time we need to feed a growing world population on a limited available land and in an environmentally friendly way. This will require the use of all available technologies. Thanks to GM technology, we can:

  • increase yields by 6%-30% on the same amount of land, avoiding the need to plough up land; GM technology helped conserving biodiversity by saving 132 million hectares of land in the period 1996-2013
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the application of fertilisers, fuel use and ploughing
  • help produce more crops per drop of water thanks to drought-tolerant crops
  • help transition towards soil conserving farm practices, such as low- and no-till systems, which are important for more efficient water use by better trapping soil moisture.

Source: ISAAA Brief 49-2014: Executive Summary

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