It’s not easy being green. And it’s especially hard if you’re not even green to begin with.
An editorial in New Scientist tries to make the case that genetically modified (GM) crops provide hidden environmental benefits.
Right — you know. The way soft drinks have hidden health benefits. And skydiving has hidden anti-gravity benefits.
Seriously. This might be the worst sales pitch I ever heard.
Down on the green farm
According to New Scientist, “GM has the potential to do enormous good, if used in the right way.”
Enormous good? Okay, New Scientist. Bring on the enormity.
Here are the two examples the article offers…
1) GM reduces the need for tilling. That enables farmers to cut greenhouse emissions.
And how much does tilling add to total greenhouse emissions? I’m going to guess it’s around 1/10th of one percent. I have no idea if that’s correct, but I’m pretty sure I’m on the high side.
2) GM scientists are devising drought-resistant crops that will thrive in warmer climates.
Unfortunately, insects that thrive in warm weather might devour those crops. But these aren’t just any insects.
Monsanto created a GM corn that contains an insecticide called Bt. Every cell of the plant — from roots to kernels — contains Bt.
And you’ll never guess what happened!
Already, a Bt-resistant rootworm has evolved. And this past summer, farmers discovered that this lowly pest seems to do its worst damage when temperatures are scorching.
One scientist summed up the disaster… “Instead of making things easier, we’ve just made corn rootworm management harder and a heck of a lot more expensive.”
Meanwhile, GM has created another kind of environmental nightmare. Superweeds.
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops have produced Roundup-resistant weeds so sturdy and fast growing that many farmers can’t control them. Some farmers actually abandon their fields to these crop-killers.
More than 20 weed species have developed resistance to Roundup.
There’s only one part of the GM plan that’s working out beautifully. Monsanto and other agri-business giants are getting very rich off GM “innovations.”
Maybe that’s the “green” New Scientist is talking about.
But there is something we can do. I’ll fill you in tomorrow…
“Future farms need to use every trick in the book” New Scientist, 10/11/12, newscientist.com