Biotech Makes Farming Earth-Friendly

Farmer Gene

BBC News’s weekly “Green Room” features an opinion article about biotechnology’s role in strengthening the security and sustainability of global food production.

Dr. Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, German MEP and a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development writes that we will not be able to sustain a growing population if we do not amend our methods of agricultural production to reflect the new challenges before us.

In addition to the challenges of simply producing more, healthier food, ambitious targets have been set to tackle climate change.

Agricultural biotechnology can help by reducing greenhouse gases, helping crops adapt to varied and often adverse environments, and by helping to increase crop yields while using less land and other inputs such as herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers.

Today’s biotech crops reduce the need for tillage or plowing, allowing farmers to adopt to more environmentally-friendly practices. This means:

  • tractor fuel use for tillage is reduced 
  • soil quality is enhanced and levels of soil erosion are cut 
  • less tillage keeps carbon in the soil, leading to lower emissions

In addition, water shortages cost billions of dollars a year in crop shortfalls, and are likely to grow more costly as climate change ad’s to the challenges of water use. Biotech crops have already been developed to better adapt to warmer climates, and new varieties of drought resistant crops, or crops which can be grown on marginal lands, also offer new opportunities to some of the world’s poorest regions.

A number of projects are being developed to optimize nitrogen use within a crop, a vital requirement in many parts of the world where fertilizers are in short supply. Recognizing that the production of fertilizers is energy demanding, these traits will be as beneficial to Europe and the United States, as they are to the developing world.

As the challenges we face become more acute, there has never been a better time for a genuine discussion about the food production and environmental benefits of biotechnology.

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