Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Nature VI
Perhaps most important, agro-ecosystem biodiversity is only one piece of the jigsaw. In organic and many conventional systems, weeds are controlled by ploughing before planting the crop. GMHT crops could support a reduction in tillage through direct drilling into a weedy field, which may be beneficial to soil organisms. The glyphosate or glufosinate herbicides used with these crops are less persistent than many conventional herbicides such as atrazine, and may lead to a reduction in the costs of removing agrochemicals from watercourses. Moving from herbicide-tolerant to insect-protected GM varieties, the potential to reduce pesticide use is even greater. Fewer herbicide or pesticide treatments will also mean reduced consumption of fossil fuels driving agricultural machinery and a significant reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions. A true comparison of environmental impact would require all externalities to be included, encompassing ecological, social and economic considerations.
[R. S. Hails, "Assessing the risks associated with new agricultural practices," Nature 418, 685 - 688 (2002).]

More tomorrow.


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