Plant Science Protects Biodiversity with Best Land Use
April 23, 2014
Land Use & Biodiversity
Advances in agricultural technologies, such as innovative crop protection products and biotech seeds, allow farmers to make the most of existing cropland and curb expanding acres with minimal adverse effects to biodiversity. Between 35 and 42 per cent of the world’s potential crop production is lost annually due to weeds, insects, diseases and other pests. These losses would double without crop protection products.
By increasing crop production, agricultural technologies decrease the need to expand farmland, protecting natural habitats.
For example, from 1996 to 2011, high-yielding biotech crops worldwide prevented nearly 109 million hectares of biodiverse land from being converted into cropland, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.
Moreover, herbicide-tolerant biotech crops enable farmers to use environmentally sound herbicides instead of tillage for weed control. This leaves crop stubble in the field, which improves habitat and food sources for insects, birds and other animals.
Finally, the plant science industry invests heavily in ensuring the environmental safety of agricultural technologies, which helps protect biodiversity. For example, a new crop protection product takes up to nine years in excess of US$250 million to develop. Of this total, as much as 40 per cent is spent on researching the product’s environmental fate and impacts. The commercialization of a new plant biotech trait takes an average of 13 years — about 5.5 years of which is devoted to registration and regulatory affairs that include many environmental checks.