For too long the potential of biotechnology to address climate change has taken a back seat to engineering, chemistry and energy. But new advances in gene editing could make farming more efficient and take carbon out of the atmosphere.
By the numbers: The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a think tank for science and technology policy, concludes in a recent report that gene-editing technologies like CRISPR could lead to a 50% improvement in agricultural productivity by 2050.
- Some of those productivity benefits could come from reducing food waste — which produces as much as 1.9 billion tons of CO2 equivalent each year — by genetically engineering plants to last longer.
- Gene editing and selective breeding could reduce emissions from ruminant animals like cattle, which amount to perhaps 2.86 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year.
- By gene editing plants to improve their use of photosynthesis, they could become much more effective at capturing and sequestering carbon from the air.