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Earth Day 2011: Five Ways Biotechnology is Earth-Friendly

April 21, 2011
As the world celebrates Earth Day 2011, the biotech industry is doing its part to make the food we eat and the products we consume more environmentally sustainable – from reducing carbon dioxide emissions to preserving endangered species. Here are five ways that biotech is making farming earth-friendly.

1.       Protecting Soil, Air and Water:  Farmers have found that the use of biotech crops can reduce the need for plowing to control weeds. No-till agriculture, in limited use prior to 1996, has enabled farmers to shift to simpler, more effective methods means of control since biotech crops are able to tolerate herbicides with low environmental impact. This has led to improved soil health and water retention, reduced pesticide runoff, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

For one year alone, fuel savings combined with biotech crop-related carbon sequestration eliminated nearly 39 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions in 2009 – equivalent to removing 7.8 million cars from the road in one year. Watch a video about American farmers.

2.       Conserving the Environment:  Biotechnology can help produce environmentally friendly farm animals. Animals and their feeds have been improved through biotechnology to reduce animal wastes, minimizing their impact on the environment. Watch a video about genetically engineered animals.

3.       Preserving Endangered Species:  Today’s reproductive and cloning techniques offer the possibility of preserving the genetics of endangered species. In addition, studies of endangered animals can also result in increased genetic diversity which can result in healthier populations of the species. Watch a video about endangered species.

4.       Promoting Energy Security:  Biotechnology is at the heart of biofuels. Biofuels are made from everything from corn to soybeans to sugar beets to wood and grasses – even algae. They are also cleaner burning than petroleum-based fuels and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent or more! Learn more about the potential of algae.

5.       Saving Plants from Disease and Pests:  Biotechnology is helping food plants resist disease and pests. For example, a genetically enhanced papaya literally helped save the Hawaiian papaya industry for farmers who suffered devastating losses from the ringspot virus – there was no other effective treatment. Learn more about the biotech papaya.

To learn more about how biotech is making farming earth-friendly, download BIO's 2011 Earth Day fact sheet!