Key environmental impacts of global genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996-2011

GM Crops Food. 2013 Apr-Jun;4(2):109-19. doi: 10.4161/gmcr.24459. Epub 2013 Apr 1.


Given the increasing awareness and appreciation of issues such as global warming and the impact of mankind's activities such as agriculture on the global environment, this paper updates previous assessments of the environmental impact of an important and relatively new technology, crop biotechnology has had on global agriculture. It focuses on the environmental impacts associated with changes in pesticide use and greenhouse gas emissions arising from the use of GM crops. The adoption of the technology has reduced pesticide spraying by 474 million kg (-8.9%) and, as a result, decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops [as measured by the indicator the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ)] by 18.1%. The technology has also facilitated a significant reduction in the release of greenhouse gas emissions from this cropping area, which, in 2011, was equivalent to removing 10.22 million cars from the roads.

Keywords: GMO; biotechnology; carbon sequestration; no tillage; pesticide.

MeSH terms

  • Biotechnology
  • Crops, Agricultural / drug effects*
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics
  • Environment*
  • Environmental Monitoring / economics
  • Environmental Monitoring / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Global Warming / economics
  • Gossypium / genetics
  • Greenhouse Effect / economics
  • Herbicide Resistance
  • Herbicides
  • Insecticides
  • Plant Weeds
  • Plants, Genetically Modified*
  • Soybeans / genetics
  • Zea mays / genetics


  • Herbicides
  • Insecticides