Dr. Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard Kennedy School and author of The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa (Oxford University Press, 2011), writes a guest blog discussing the implications of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) 2011 report on major developments impacting biotech crop adoption worldwide.
By Calestous Juma
This year’s announcement by ISAAA that the adoption of transgenic crops continues to expand at 8% per year since 1996-when biotech crops first became available to U.S. farmers- is a signal of the transformational role that biotechnology is already having on agriculture. ISAAA reports that biotech crops contributed to mitigating climate change, alleviating poverty and improving global food security. Most notably, it states that between 1996 and 2010, biotech crops increased “crop production and value by $78 billion.” In 2010 alone, the technology contributed to “conserving biodiversity by saving 91 million hectares of land; and helped alleviate poverty by helping 15.0 million small farmers who are some of the poorest people in the world.”
The evidence is stacking up against critics of biotechnology. Earlier claims that transgenic crops were likely to have dramatic negative impacts on the environment will not continue to enjoy the kind of support they did 15 years ago. What is needed now is a more balanced assessment that looks at all the evidence available to date to determine the role of biotechnology in addressing climate change and global food needs.