Claim that GM crops reduce CO2 emission
"A presentation by Graham Brookes, director of the England-based PG Economics Limited, showed hard evidence of the overwhelmingly positive economic and environmental impacts of the crops. Mind you, this is a man whose company gets a paycheck from such pro-GM trade associations as CropLife International and Green Biotech Europe, and who summed up his view of the Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva with the couplet 'bloody idiot.'"
Brookes is once again claiming that GM crops have reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as he's done previously in reports commissioned by the biotech industry.
Brookes bases his claims on GM crops making reduced plowing - low or no till agriculture - possible, and they're requiring less pesticide use, hence vehicle movements to deliver the pesticides. Both claims are highly questionable.
Low or no till agriculture does not require GM crops. According to the US Dept of Agriculture's own analysis on this: "Using herbicide-tolerant seed did not significantly affect no-till adoption."
The USDA report points out that the no-till acreage in America had already been steadily rising before the introduction of GM crops. That prior trend has since simply continued. In fact to some degree it has subsequently stagnated according to the USDA analysis. It has never been necessary to grow GM crops in order to carry out no-till agriculture.
Ironically, where no-till is associated with GM herbicide-resistant crops, it is being undermined by the emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds, as a U.S. weed extension specialist has noted, "With glyphosate-resistant horseweed we've already seen a reduction in no-till acres."
Growing weed resistance also means increased use of chemicals and more tractor movements to deliver them. Another problem generating more chemicals and more tractor movements is that of volunteers. Research shows that this can be a significant problem with GM canola (rape) for as long as 15 years after the crop is grown. The study, published by the UK's Royal Society, concluded there was "a potentially serious problem associated with the temporal persistence of rape seeds in soil."
Brookes general claim of decreased chemical use on GM crops is anyway seriously open to challenge. A 2003 technical paper by Dr Charles Benbrook analysed all the publicly available US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data on pesticide use in the US since 1996 when GM crops were first introduced. It looked at pounds of pesticides applied and found that, while they initially led to a reduction in pesticide use, in the period 2001-2003 GM crops actually *increased* use of over all pesticides by over 73 million pounds.
There is also pretty good evidence that the increased corporatising of farms that GM-agriculture encourages globally, not least in developing countries, will result in more machines, larger farms with fewer workers and the growing of export not subsistence crops - all likely to result in an increase in greenhouse gases.
Also, if we really wanted to tackle the climate change impacts of farming, the main area to look at would be nitrogen fertilizers - where most CO2 emissions related to farming are found. No GM crops offer a reduction in nitrogen fertilizers. On the contrary, they encourage chemical-dependent agriculture, as is plain from the fact that 80% of the GM crops being grown are for herbicide tolerance.
For more on PG Economics: http://web.archive.org/web/20050226063125/www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=308&page=P
Biotech expert says GM crops reduce CO2 emission
abs-cbnNEWS.com, November 10 2008
Genetically modified (GM) crops have an immense capability of protecting the environment, an agricultural economist said.
According to Graham Brookes of PG Economics (United Kingdom), the use of GM crops has reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by an estimated 14.76 billion kilos in 2006.
He added that the growing impact of GM crops from 1996 to 2006 has resulted in pesticide use reduction by a whopping 15.47 percent, covering a total of 27 pesticide active ingredients used by the European Union (EU) on arable crops in one year.
In GM insect-resistant cotton, for instance, 5.6 million kilos of insecticide were observed to be reduced, said Brookes. With the reduction on spraying, less fuel is used which resulted in the reduction of CO2 emission by 5.8 billion kilos or equivalent to 2.6 million cars off the road.
"This is equivalent to removing 6.56 million cars or 25 percent of cars registered in the United Kingdom from the road in one year," he said in a forum.
Biotechnology crops were also said to promote low or no till farming, a system which has cancelled the release of 13.5 billion kilos of CO2 into the atmosphere. If no tillage would be continued, 63.9 billion kilos of CO2 would be reduced through additional soil carbon sequestration.
In addition to this, Brookes said that the production of GM crops has benefitted farmers, generating an accumulated income of $33.8 billion. He added that such were able to effectively lower food prices, especially in developing countries.
"Additional production has allowed significantly higher volumes of commodities to be traded globally. It must have had an important positive impact on mitigating the level of price increases in world markets," he said.