Feeding the Future
GMOs Can Be Green Champions

Greens might want to reconsider their resistance to genetically modified crops—not just because science has time and again shown GMOs to be perfectly safe, but also because they could be a mechanism by which environmentalists could secure one of their other policy priorities: protecting biodiversity. As Reuters reports, a new study warns that biodiversity is dropping at a worrying rate, and the scientists link this drop to an expansion in global farmland:

An expansion of farmland has damaged nature beyond a “safe” limit on 58 percent of the world’s land surface, threatening natural services such as crop pollination by insects, scientists said on Thursday…[T]he study said the diversity of animals and plants on 58 percent of the world’s land area, home to 71 percent of all people, had fallen below a safe threshold, driven mainly by an expansion of farmland as well as by roads and bigger cities.

It turns out that by transforming land to help feed the world’s population, we’ve also decreased biodiversity in many of the world’s ecosystems, most prouncedly in grasslands. So what are the implications of this fall, then? Reuters continues:

The declines raise risks for natural services such as pollination of food crops by insects, production of nutrients by soils, or the ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide as a natural brake on climate change. “If we keep degrading biodiversity there will be a point where it’s very difficult to support agriculture,” lead author Tim Newbold of University College London told Reuters.

Modern agriculture, according to these researchers, stands on the precipice of a vicious cycle where further land cultivation could make it more difficult to grow the crops we’re going to need in coming years. But this is where GMOs come in: not only can we genetically modify crops that are capable of being grown in more adverse conditions—including, potentially, those unfavorable conditions we might see in a less biodiverse world—but we can also produce higher crop yields with these technologies. Higher yields can allow us to grow more crops on less land, which could help decrease our agricultural footprint and, in the process, protect biodiversity.

Greens take a special pride in their ability to paint a dismal view of humanity’s future on this planet, and they’ll be off to the races with this latest study warning of the dangers of falling biodiversity. But if environmentalists had as much of an interest in solving problems as they do in describing them, they’d be GMOs’ biggest cheerleaders.

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