[G]enetic modification increases corn yields, by a lot. This is not surprising: pests account for a loss of almost one-third of yields, and weeds for a loss of another 10%. Genetic modification addresses these two sources of loss, and thus crops resistant to either pest or weeds yield on average 10% more grain, and crops resistant to both deliver a 25% increase in grain yield. Consider the global importance of such an effect: the world could use one-fifth less farmland to produce its food. This means less deforestation. It also means less greenhouse gas emissions, by as much as one-eighth of the annual emissions from automobiles. There is no other policy that a true environmentalist should support more vigorously than the transition of the rest of the world to GMO-based agriculture.
Overall, there is no substantial effect on insect biodiversity. And other studies have found a dramatic reduction in the use of herbicides and insecticides.
[E]nvironmentalists should be at the forefront of advocating in favor of GMO technology. And yet, paradoxically, the more resounding the statements of scientific unanimity about the environmental benefits of GMOs, the stronger the ongoing campaigns in retail markets to promote non-GMO foods.
Editor’s note: Omri Ben-Shahar is a law professor at the University of Chicago
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