Cows get a lot of flack for the methane they produce, and many greens point to their emissions of that particularly potent greenhouse gas as another reason to stop eating meat. What those activists will invariably fail to mention, however, is that crops can emit methane, too. Rice, a diet staple for millions around the world, is one such crop, but the LA Times reports that genetic modifications may help farmers grow the plant greener:
When rice paddies are flooded, methane-producing bacteria thrive on the carbohydrates secreted by rice roots in the oxygen-free soils. The rice plant itself acts as a conduit, transmitting methane from the soil into the atmosphere. […]By transferring a barley gene into a rice plant, scientists have created a new variety of rice that produces less methane while still making highly starchy, productive seeds. The development of the new rice strain is described this week in the journal Nature.Finding a way to boost rice production while reducing methane emissions has been a goal for many years, said Chuanxin Sun, a plant biologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the lead author of the study. By engineering barley genes into the rice plant, “we demonstrated it’s possible to get these two traits with this technology,” he said.
Boosting crop yields while depressing harmful greenhouse gas emissions to less than 10 percent of conventional rice, all in one fell swoop? Yes, please. This is exactly the kind of technology we’ll need if we want to feed a growing global population on less land, without warming our planet even further. In other words, this is a step towards a workable solution to the kind of bleak future Malthusian greens promise is right around the corner.And yet, and yet…the environmental movement remains by and large opposed to genetic modification technology. The science says GMOs are safe, and a select few greens have come to their senses and embraced the enormous potential these new crops offer, but the vast majority of the purportedly eco-conscious continue to inflame public distrust of “frankenfoods”, leading companies like Chipotle to proudly declare their offerings “GMO-free.” Greens don the mantle of settled science when pushing their climate change agenda, yet brazenly shed it when it comes to GMOs. That’s a shameful hypocrisy, but if there’s any silver lining here, it’s this: The environmental movement as currently configured is so strategically inept that its opposition to these new crop technologies is anything but insurmountable. For that, future generations can be thankful.