How GMOs can help farmers tackle climate change

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Credit: Civil Eats
Credit: Civil Eats

Going forward into the future, agricultural scientists using techniques such as gene editing can help make crop and livestock species more resistant to the impacts of climate change, and also potentially increase certain crops’ ability to mitigate climate change.

As a result of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project… millions of African farmers now have access to seed to grow drought-tolerant maize (corn), helping them improve their yields by as much as 30 percent.

The success of the DTMA project has spurred similar research regarding drought tolerance on other major cash crops, including coffee in Uganda, soybeans and wheat in Argentina, rice grown in India, the Philippines, and Nepal, and canola in Canada.

More fundamental changes to the physiology of plants are being researched as well, such as the work under the Realizing Increases in Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project headquartered at the University of Illinois, where scientists are seeking to improve the capacity of plants to convert sunshine, water, and carbon dioxide into plant matter. 

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With higher levels of carbon dioxide already present in the atmosphere as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, this work could help stave off the expected decline in crop yields due to higher temperatures and more variable precipitation.

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