Purdue Studies Climate Impacts Of A GMO Ban
Cornell Alliance For Science Staff
Cornell Alliance For Science
Eliminating GMO commodity crops in America would significantly boost greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions and have other environmental and economic impacts, according to a new study by Purdue University agricultural economists.
“GMOs have gotten a lot of bad press, so it made sense to us to ask the question of what would be the economic and greenhouse gas emission impacts if they were banned in the U.S.,” Dr. Wallace E. Tyner, the James and Lois Ackerman Professor in Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Economics, told the Alliance for Science.
“This is not an argument to keep or lose GMOs,” Tyner said. “It’s just a simple question: What happens if they go away?”
The Purdue researchers found that yields of soy, corn, and cotton would decrease, requiring some 252,047 acres of U.S. forest and pasture lands to be converted to crop production to offset the shortfall. A reduction in the export of U.S. commodity crops would also increase demand for cropland in other nations.
“Our analyses confirms that if we do not have access to the GMO technology, a significant amount of land would need to be converted from other crops, cropland pasture, pasture, and forest to meet the global food demand. This could cause deforestation in U.S. and other regions to satisfy higher demand for cropland, which leads to expansion in GHG emissions due to land use changes,” according to the paper’s abstract.
“Some of the same groups that oppose GMOs want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the potential for global warming,” Tyner said. “The result we get is that you can’t have it both ways. If you want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture, an important tool to do that is with GMO traits.”
In 2014, 18 million farmers in 28 countries planted more than 181 million hectares of GMO crops, with the U.S. accounting for 40 percent of the global share. In the U.S. in 2014, GM crops accounted for 94% of soybeans, 91% of cotton, and 89% of the corn produced.
Though GMO crops have always been controversial, the paper noted, “More recently there has emerged increased opposition against GMO crops. Given that the GMO crops have been widely produced and used in U.S. and also exported to other countries, and that the GMO crops are usually more productive than the non-GMO crops, imposing restriction on production and/or consumption of these crops could lead to: lower crop production on the existing cropland base as yields drop; reduction in the net exports of U.S. agricultural products; higher crop prices at the national and global scales; some increases in food prices; drops in farm incomes and farmland values; and increases in use of pesticides and other inputs required without GMO traits (not examined in this paper). These impacts jointly harm the US and global economy and generate welfare losses.”
We are a broad-based coalition representing the entire American agriculture food supply chain – from farm to fork. We are committed to increasing the public’s understanding about the science and safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and advocating for science-based policies that keep food affordable for every American.