Physician and molecular biologist Henry I. Miller cautioned India against stifling the cultivation of biotech crops, pointing out that India has already reaped significant economic and environmental benefits by using the technology. “Following the adoption of the genetically improved varieties and intensive crop management practices of the Green Revolution, from 1960 to 2000 India’s wheat yields increased more than three-fold,” he stated.
“During the past decade, widespread adoption of an insect-resistant, genetically engineered crop called Bt-cotton has drastically reduced the use of chemical pesticides in cotton fields, enhanced food security and improved farmers’ bottom line,” he noted in The Wall Street Journal. Miller, who is a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, added that economists Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot estimate that the pest-resistant Bt-cotton boosted India’s economy by $9.4 billion between 2002 and 2010 and by $2.5 billion in 2010 alone. Read more.
In observance of World Food Day, C. S. Prakash, Ph. D. of the College of Agriculture at Tuskegee University remarked that ag biotech remains vitally important in the fight against world hunger, through the production of plants that resist pests and disease responsible for significant crop damage in the developing world, and the continued cultivation of more nutritious strains of staple crops.
“Biotechnology represents a frontier advance in agricultural science, and has far-reaching potential in advancing global food production in an environmentally sustainable manner,” he stated, reiterating as well that “leading scientists around the world are attesting to the health and environmental safety of agricultural biotechnology, and now they are calling for genetically modified crops to be extended to the people who need it most - hungry people in the developing world.”
As we continue to work towards eliminating world hunger amid an expanding global population, Dr. Prakash concluded that “biotechnology represents a powerful tool that we can employ in concert with many other traditional approaches in increasing food production in the face of diminishing land and water resources.” Read more.
European opposition to biotech crops has no scientific basis and will cost the continent dearly in biodiversity, land preservation, and adaptation to global warming, according to four Swedish scientists who say the European Union’s approval process has been captured by special interests who “demonize” agricultural biotechnology.
“Lobbyists who benefit from demonizing GM crops are not the ones who have to carry the costs,” the quartet wrote in EMBO Reports, published by Nature for the European Molecular Biology Organization. “It is not the hyped risks of GM crops that are a problem in the EU, it is the submissive attitude of politicians and policymakers towards organizations who insist that GM crops are risky. It is then ordinary consumers who pay the costs and do not receive the benefits.” READ MORE »
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) released its annual report on the global status of commercialized biotech crops in 2011. The ISAAA report discusses major developments impacting biotech crop adoption and its implications for the future, including this year’s 8% increase of hectarage dedicated to biotech crops and numerous advancements made by millions of farmers in developing countries. The technology plays an important role in feeding the world, which reached an unprecedented 7 billion people in October of last year.
Take a look at the full ISAAA report below to find out more about the 29 countries that have adopted biotech crops since they were first planted 15 years ago and the growth of agricultural biotechnology in the United States and worldwide.
Some highlights from the 2011 ISAAA report include:
- Land dedicated to biotech crops reached a record 160 million hectares this year, an 8% increase from 2010.
- A total of 16.7 million farmers planted biotech crops in 2011, up 1.3 million from 2010.
- Of the 29 countries planting biotech crops in 2011, developing countries grew nearly 50% of global biotech crops in 2011 and are expected to exceed industrial countries’ hectarage for the first time in 2012.
- The top five countries in biotech developing -China, India, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa -grew 44% of global biotech crops in 2011, and have roughly 40% of world population.
- More than half the world’s population, 4 billion people, lives in countries planting biotech crops.
- The United States continued to be the lead producer of biotech crops with 69.0 million hectares planted in 2011, seeing particularly strong growth in maize and cotton.
- For the third consecutive year, the use of genetically modified seeds grew fasted in Brazil, with 4.9 million hectares planted in 2011.
- A total of 60 countries have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crops for import for food and feed use and for release into the environment since 1996.
- Biotech soybean continued to be the principal biotech crop in 2011, occupying 75.4 million hectares or 47% of global biotech area, followed by biotech maize at 32%, biotech at 15% and biotech canola at 5% of the global biotech crop area.
- In total, 7 million small farmers in China and another 7 million small farmers in India planted a combined total of 14.5 million hectares of biotech crops, contributing to significant increases in incomes and cutting in half the use of insecticide sprays.
- Africa planted 2.5 million hectares of biotech crops in 2011, and continues to make advancements with field trials focusing on priority staple crops including maize, cassava, banana and sweet potato.
- The overall increase in hectarage from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 160 million hectares in 2011 makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.
UNESCO approves biotech center in Nigeria to promote food security
According to the Sun News, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) approved the establishment of the International Biotechnology Centre at the University of Nigeria, the first of its kind in Africa with the goal to “promote food security and tropical disease research and also provide a platform for exchange and collaboration at the national level and within the region and beyond.” Read more.
California Farm Bureau Federation says biotech contributes to American innovation
The California Farm Bureau Federation says biotech is a key part of American innovation and ensures an abundant food supply. John Hart, director of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s news service, calls for the removal of regulatory hurdles to approving biotech crops.
“It is time to invigorate America’s innovative spirit by renewing our commitment to agricultural biotechnology, removing the regulatory hurdles that stand in the way and continuing to make consumers aware that biotech crops are not only safe but desperately needed.” Read more.
Discover Magazine blog calls for science-based policies in support of ag biotech
In a Discover Magazine blog, science author and commentator Chris Mooney discusses misperceptions about the safety of agricultural biotechnology and the importance of science-based regulatory policies. Read more.