Biotechnology is used to develop traits that make crops more tolerable or resistant to plant diseases, pests, extreme environmental conditions such as drought and specific plant herbicides. These traits not only help keep plants healthier but can also help maintain or improve our environment. For example, herbicide tolerant crops allow farmers to use less tillage which reduces nutrient runoff and soil erosion (helping our rivers and other waterways), and retain additional soil moisture (requiring less irrigation) all while maintaining yield and nutritional value. In fact:
- Over the past 20 years, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22 percent and increased farmer profits by 68 percent.
- In 2009, 65 percent of U.S. soybeans grown used conservation tillage, resulting in a 93 percent decline in soil erosion, preserving an estimated one billion tons of top soil. This reduction, in part, was due to GM soybeans, which are resistant to herbicides.
- In 2014, GM crops enabled farmers to grow more with less land. Planting GMOs enabled farmers to use 51 million less acres of land to produce the same amount of crops.
Farm biotechnology allows us to be more sustainable, by doing more with less, Field to Market study
- Soil erosion has improved (decreased) for corn by 31% and for soybeans by 28%, since 1980.
- Irrigation water applied per unit of production has improved (decreased) for corn by 53% and for soybeans by 42%, since 1980.
- Energy use per unit of production has improved (decreased) for corn by 44% and for soybeans by 48%, since 1980.
- Greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production have improved (decreased) for corn by 36% and for soybeans by 49%, since 1980.