No-till farming as practised with GM crops is climate-friendly as it sequesters more carbon
No-till farming does not sequester more carbon
Chemically-based agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, producing over 20% of greenhouse gas emissions.18 GM proponents claim that GM crops can help reverse this trend by enabling the adoption of no-till farming, which avoids ploughing and relies on herbicide applications to control weeds. GM proponents argue that no-till sequesters (stores) more carbon in the soil than ploughing, preventing the carbon from being released into the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
On the basis of this argument, Monsanto is lobbying for GM Roundup Ready crop cultivation to be made eligible for carbon credits under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).19 The CDM aims to promote technologies that mitigate climate change. Industrialized countries and companies in the Global North can continue to emit the same amount of greenhouse gases and still meet their required emissions reductions by funding CDM projects, most of which are in the Global South.
If Monsanto succeeds in its lobbying and farmers that grow Roundup Ready crops can access carbon credits for no-till, then sales of Monsanto’s seeds and agrochemicals will increase, as governments will encourage farmers to plant Roundup Ready crops to qualify for carbon credits.
But industry claims of improved carbon sequestration for GM Roundup Ready crops with no-till are not supported by research. A comprehensive review of the scientific literature found that no-till fields sequester no more carbon than ploughed fields when carbon sequestration at soil depths greater than 30 cm is taken into account. Studies claiming to find carbon sequestration benefits from no-till only measure carbon sequestration down to a depth of about 30cm and so do not give an accurate picture.20