Genetically modified crops may help the environment by reducing the need to plough, thereby helping to preserve topsoil.

A new study released by the Conservation Technology Information Centre (CTIC) suggests that farmers who give over their land to grow biotech crops that have a built-in tolerance to herbicides reduce the disruption to topsoil through ploughing. Dan Towery, a natural resources specialist at CTIC, said that no-till acres have increased 35% since GM crops were introduced and now total in excess of 55m acres.

CTIC launched the results of its study at the Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, Iowa yesterday [Wednesday]. The results will be gladly seized upon by biotech farmers who use herbicide-resistant seeds to help them in the battle against weeds that compete with crops for nutrients, water and sunlight.

Towery said the implementation of conservation tilling could save as much as US$3.5bn per year in water treatment and storage, waterway maintenance, navigation flooding and recreation costs, reported the Associated Press. “Americans now have cleaner and more affordable drinking water because farmers tripled the number of acres they plant with conservation tillage in the past two decades,” he said. “We can do even better as more farmers plant biotech crops and convert to no-till farming systems.”

CTIC is a not-for-profit organisation that works with corporate partners such as Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, as well as academic, government and other nonprofit groups. The stated goal of the West Lafayette, Ind.-based centre, is to promote the enhancement of soil and water quality by equipping farmers with affordable conservation solutions.

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