By Hannah Becker on October 2, 2017

The Environmental Benefits of Genetically Modified Crops

Cotton Field

Did you know the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops provides more environmental benefits than non-GM crops?

The enhanced traits of genetically modified plants make the crops hardier, allowing farmers to be more environmentally friendly in their production practices. In the past 20 years, the cultivation of GM crops has helped farmers cut pesticide use by almost 10 percent, while increasing crop yields more than 20 percent. GM-based farming practices have allowed farmers to grow more food while using fewer resources, including many natural, non-replaceable resources such as air, soil and water.

Let’s look at three environmental benefits of GM crops.

Improved Air Quality

Due to genetically modified crops’ enhanced characteristics, such as disease and drought resistance, farmers can till and spray less often, which results in food being grown with fewer tractors passes. What does this mean for our air quality? Less tractor use means fewer carbon emissions entering the atmosphere and less carbon dioxide trapped in the soil. Current GM production is credited with decreasing harmful carbon emissions to the same effect of removing 12 million cars from the road (think: driving population of Los Angeles).

Water Conservation

Because farmers who grow genetically modified crops till the soil less often, fields have less erosion and more water retention. This type of conservation-driven production practice helps save integral bodies of water from becoming saturated with unwanted runoff. Additionally, many types of genetically modified crops require less water to reach maturity than their non-GM cousins –  allowing farmers to conserve water resources while producing large amounts of food. The cultivation of genetically modified cotton in the United States has helped to reduce the water needs by 50 percent over the last 20 years.

Combat Climate Change

Genetically modified crops enable farmers to grow more food with fewer resources, protecting many much-needed natural resources such as clean air, forests and water. By maximizing our existing arable lands for agricultural use and minimizing emissions, modern farming techniques help protect our world from the disastrous effects of climate change. While the increased construction and transportation that accompanies modern life has greatly increased our world’s emissions, GM farmers are actively combating climate change through responsible production practices.

The cultivation of genetically modified crops allows farmers to conserve natural resources like water while minimizing potentially harmful things such as carbon emissions. As our world population continues to grow, farmers must utilize farming methods that allow them to produce more food with fewer resources. Few industries rely on the health of our environment like agriculture, and as stewards of the land, few people understand the importance of environment conservation like farmers. By growing genetically modified crops, farmers can help ensure that people get the food they need while our world remains a healthy environment for all organisms.  

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  • Hannah Becker

    Hannah Becker

    Hannah Becker is a millennial author, farmer, and marketing consultant. With the sole professional goal of growing up to "be a cowgirl," Hannah is the enthusiastic farmer behind Willow Springs Farm, in Franklin County, Kan. Hannah has a B.S. in Animal & Dairy Science from Mississippi State University, and a... Read more