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Have we become more sustainable?” asks Martin Entz, professor of natural systems agriculture at the University of Manitoba. “In some ways we’ve moved forward a long way, but there’s also some things we’ve moved backwards on.”
Farmers have scored big wins in erosion control, organic matter loss, water use efficiency, weed management, yields, and economic efficiency, says Entz. But he says energy efficiency is an area with little progress. “We’re using a lot of energy to produce the crops that we are, with fossil fuel energy in the form of fertilizers,” Entz says. “And we’re not producing our crops much more (energy) efficiently than we were in the past. Maybe less efficient.”
John Oliver adds Roundup made agriculture more sustainable because farmers are no longer running over their fields multiple times, burning fuel and wearing out machinery. But Entz says GMO technology hasn’t been a boon to sustainability. “The herbicide-tolerant crops really, they just bought us some time with weeds, because now we see resistance building to glyphosate. So the GM crops are becoming much more ordinary in terms of their weed benefits,” Entz says.
Oliver argues in favour of GMOs, and what they might offer in the future. “There’s no way we’re going to feed the world without being able to place the traits that allow us to get by on much less water for plant rearing,” Oliver says.
Oliver also argues Western Canada’s cropping system is among the most sustainable in the world, in part because the crop mix has changed and eliminated the wheat/fallow rotation. Entz agrees that crop diversity has increased in some areas, but argues GM technology has promoted more monoculture.
Read full, original post: Is momentum being lost for sustainable agriculture?