GM crops and the environment

With global food demand expected to double in the coming decades, biotech (GM) crops can help increase world food production in an environmentally sustainable way.

GM crops have protected natural habitats by increasing production on existing farmland, thus saving 91 million hectares of additional land from being put into agricultural production since 1996.

Herbicide tolerant GM crops have increased the adoption of minimum tillage agricultural practices, thereby reducing soil erosion, water runoff and greenhouse gas emissions. Since 1996 the use of biotech crops has reduced global carbon emissions by 23 billion kilograms, which is equivalent to removing 10.2 million or around 80 per cent of cars registered in Australia from the road for one year.

In Australia, GM cotton crops have provided environmental benefits through reduced insecticide application and changes in the types of insecticides and herbicides used. First grown in 1996, now almost 100 per cent of Australiaʼs cotton crop is a GM variety. Cultivation of GM insect resistant cotton has reduced the number of insecticide sprays by up to 85 per cent compared with conventional cotton. This, in conjunction with industry stewardship practices, has greatly helped to reduce chemical runoff into rivers.

The use of GM crops has also made it possible for softer, modern insecticides with a lower environmental risk profile to replace older chemistry products.