Why boycotting GMOs will cause more climate change.

Article by Caitlin Walker and Mina Frost.

DNA provides instructions for building living things [1]. Between each generation DNA is mixed up – this is a natural process [2]. Humans can now artificially mix the DNA of plants, using clever procedures in the lab, to make better crops [3]. These are called Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) [3].

More than 181 million hectares of GM crops were planted in 2014 [4]. People worry that they harm the environment and human health [5,6,7], but GM foods are evaluated to make sure that they do neither [8]. In fact, far more checks are done on GM foods than on other new crop types [8]. No effects on human health have been seen [8,9].

But what have GMOs got to do with climate change? Many GMOs can better resist insect pests [10], so it would be possible to use less pesticide, and in some cases, this is already happening [10], potentially saving money and wildlife [11]. If GM can allow us to grow more food on less land [10], then we save other areas for wildlife and planting trees (carbon stores) [12].

Some GM plants use less fresh water and fertilizer [13,14], stay fresh longer (which reduces waste) [10], photosynthesise faster [15] or grow longer roots [16]. Longer roots may be able to store more carbon and for longer [17]. In addition, we may be able to genetically modify crops to grow in unused salty or dry areas and put nutrients back into damaged soil [10].

GMOs could help us grow food in the more extreme environments [10] which climate change is creating [18,19,20,21]. As long as they are well regulated to prevent things like outcrossing (breeding with other plants) [8,9,21], we could make use of the potentially huge climate change solutions that they could offer!

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