Genetically Modified Rice to Fight Global Warming in China
There are some smart people at Arcadia Biosciences. They not only have created a crop of rice that requires less nitrogen fertilizer, they also figured out a way to work with the Chinese government to allow Chinese farmers to get carbon credits when they use their rice. The reasoning is, less nitrogen fertilizer equals less nitrous oxide emissions (a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide). Under the Kyoto Treaty, the credits gained from that reduction can then be sold on the global market, bringing extra money to farmers. "Swapping global rice supply to the GM version, the company says, would save the equivalent of 50m tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, and generate £750m in carbon credits for farmers."
The widespread use of nitrogen fertiliser is reckoned to account for about one-third of agricultural emissions. Less than half the nitrogen is typically absorbed by crops, with the rest leaking into the soil and water supplies, or released to the air as nitrous oxide. The Arcadia technology inserts a gene that improves the nitrogen uptake, which means less fertiliser is needed to produce a given yield of crop.
From our point of view, this is a good thing as long as everything is completely and thoroughly tested for safety. Maybe if the choice was "perfect world" vs "GM crop", we wouldn't be in favor of it. But as things stand, our atmosphere could use less nitrous oxide, our water could use less nitrogen runoffs, Chinese farmers could use more money and biotech firms should get the signal that developing eco-beneficial crops is a good idea. Not to mention that most nitrogen fertilizer is made from fossil fuels (natural gas).
Arcadia is working to apply the improved nitrogen-absorption technology to GM wheat, rape seed oil, sugarbeet, maize, sugarcane, cotton and turf for golf courses and landscape gardening.