For the first time since the introduction of biotech crops almost two decades ago, developing countries grew biotech crops on more land than in industrialized countries in 2012, according to a report released on February 20 by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).
Developing nations planted 52% of the global biotech crops in 2012, up from 50% a year earlier and higher than the 48% that industrial countries grew last year. Last year, the growth rate for biotech crops was more than three times as fast and five times as large in developing countries - 11% or 8.7 million hectares (21.5 million acres) in developing countries, versus 3% or 1.6 million hectares, (3.95 million acres) in industrial countries.
“This year’s ISAAA report adds increasing evidence that agricultural biotechnology is a key component in sustainable crop production,” said Dr. Cathleen Enright, executive director of the Council for Biotechnology Information. “When you look at the rising number of acres of biotech crops planted each year, it can’t be denied that biotech crops are delivering value to more and more growers around the world.”
Other highlights of the ISAAA report include:
- Last year marked an unprecedented 100-fold increase in total biotech crop hectarage to 170 million hectares, up from 1.7 million in 1996 - when biotech crops were first commercialized.
- In 2012, a record 17.3 million farmers around the world grew biotech crops. This was an increase of 600,000 from 2011. Over 90%, or over 15 million farmers, were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
- China, India, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, which together represent approximately 40% of the global population, grew 78.2 million hectares (or 46%) of global biotech crops in 2012. The United States continued to be the lead country with 69.5 million hectares, with an average of 90% adoption across all crops.
- While 28 countries planted commercialized biotech crops in 2012, an additional 31 countries totaling 59 have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crops for import, food and feed use and for release into the environment since 1996.
For more information on this year’s report, visit www.isaaa.org.
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.
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.
Chinese government promotes benefits of biotechnology
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech (ISAAA), the State Councilor of China, Liu Yandong, expressed the Chinese Government’s support for biotechnology and its important role in feeding the world at the 2011 International Conference for Bioeconomy (BioEco) held in Tianjin, China.
Mr. Liu said, “Biotechnology is one of the most promising and dynamic areas of science and technology. Every step forward for biotechnology will have a far-reaching influence on human health, economy, and social development. The Chinese Government is willing to join hands with other countries to promote biotechnology and bio-industry.” Read more.
Report: UK House of Lords calls on EU to support biotech innovation
The UK’s House of Lords Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment EU Subcommittee released a report on innovation in EU agriculture that urges policymakers to support biotechnology. The findings of a year-long investigation into EU agriculture emphasize the importance of increased investment in scientific research and a more “innovation-friendly” regulatory approach. Read the full report.
Bangladesh plans Golden Rice field trials to fight vitamin A deficiency
The Daily Star reports that Bangladesh intends to go forward with field tests of Golden Rice, genetically engineered rice that helps fight vitamin A deficiency, which causes blindness in children. With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute is applying to import a variety developed in the Philippines that is rich in beta carotene, a source of vitamin A.
According to the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, “Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. Globally, approximately 670,000 children die every year and another 350,000 go blind because they are vitamin A deficient,” Read more.
UK scientist recommends GM crops for global food security
Sainsbury Laboratory scientist Jonathan D.G. Jones wrote an article about the widespread misunderstanding of GM crops and the importance of their adoption, ISAAA reports. The article, titled “Why Genetically Modified Crops?”, strongly recommends the use of genetic modification “at a time when we need every tool in the toolbox to ensure adequate food production in the short, medium and long term.” Read more.
GM banana could help prevent spread of fungal disease in East Africa
According to All Africa, a GM banana with improved resistance to a devastating fungal disease could help smallholder farmers in East Africa save their crops. A leaf fungus has spread through the region over the last three decades, threatening to halve fruit production on affected plantations. A team of scientists at Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Institute (NARL) said field trials of GM bananas have shown “promising results.” Read more.