Food systems account for over one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Any successful strategy for reaching the ambitious — and critical — emissions targets outlined in the Paris Agreement must involve changes to how we grow, process and distribute food.
The pursuit of net-zero can be divided into two parts. First, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible and second, the absorption of any remaining emissions from the atmosphere.
Agricultural land use is a key component in both sides of the net-zero equation. Decreasing the amount of land devoted to livestock will reduce methane emissions, while crops can be engineered to more efficiently capture carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen or store it in the soil.
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Engineered crops in the fight against climate change
Genetic engineering is already being used to help organisms adapt to rapidly changing climates. Researchers are developing strains of rice, maize and wheat capable of withstanding longer droughts and wetter monsoon seasons. Extreme temperatures are exposing crops to new fungi and pests, which is motivating scientists to genetically engineer disease-resistant cassava, potatoes and cacao.
Those same genetic engineering tools used for climate change adaptation are now being used for mitigation.