Or perhaps slightly more accurately, soon enough we will be able to test how much those who insist they are environmentalists actually do like the environment. The test will come in the form of a reaction to this latest news about the possibilities of genetic manipulation:
For photosynthesis itself is inefficient and it looks like it is possible to make it more efficient with one of those GM tweaks:
In some of our most useful crops (such as rice and wheat), photosynthesis produces toxic by-products that reduce its efficiency. Photorespiration deals with these by-products, converting them into metabolically useful components, but at the cost of energy lost. South et al.constructed a metabolic pathway in transgenic tobacco plants that more efficiently recaptures the unproductive by-products of photosynthesis with less energy lost (see the Perspective by Eisenhut and Weber). In field trials, these transgenic tobacco plants were ∼40% more productive than wild-type tobacco plants.
Making rice, wheat and so on 40% more productive would, if consumption levels stayed the same, mean we need something like 40% less land to feed ourselves. Which then means rather more land for nature to go be wild nature in.
We’d be greatly reducing our footprint on this Earth that is. The interesting part here being that the most vociferous opposition is going to come from those who supposedly support all matters environmental.
It’s going to be a useful sorting mechanism between those who really do care about the environment and those who only say they do, isn’t it? Support a method of freeing up 40% of cropland for nature, or continue to oppose GM?