The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) released its annual report on the global status of commercialized biotech crops in 2009. In addition to sharing the state of agricultural biotechnology worldwide, the ISAAA report discusses major developments impacting biotech crop adoption, including China’s landmark decision to approve biotech rice and phytase maize and a future with drought tolerant crops and golden rice.
Please see the charts from the ISAAA report to learn about the 25 countries that have adopted biotech crops and the growth of agricultural biotechnology in the United States and worldwide.
Below are some highlights from the latest ISAAA report:
- Small and large farmers in 25 countries planted 134 million hectares (330 million acres) in 2009, an increase of 7 percent or 9 million hectares (22 million acres) over 2008.
- In 2009, the number of biotech famers worldwide increased by .07 million to 14.0 million, 90% of those were small and resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
- For the first time, biotech soybean occupied more than three-quarters of the 90 million hectares of soybean globally, biotech cotton almost half of the 33 million hectares of global cotton, biotech maize over one-quarter of the 158 million hectares of global maize and biotech canola more than one-fifth of the 31 million hectares of global canola.
- Developing countries increased their share of global biotech crops to almost 50% in 2009, and are expected to their increase biotech hectarage in the future.
- In 2009, Brazil narrowly displaced Argentina to become the second largest grower of biotech crops globally.
- While 25 countries planted commercialized biotech crops in 2009, an additional 32 countries, totaling 57, have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crops for import for food and feed use and release into the environment since 1996.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s remarks at this year’s Agriculture Outlook Conference discussed the approach of the USDA under his leadership. He is committed to propping up rural America and supporting American farmers so they can grow more crops in a healthy, sustainable manner. Sec. Vilsack, a supporter of ag biotech, also discussed the role agricultural biotechnology should play in our future. Below are some quotes from Sec. Vilsack’s speech about ag biotech.
Sec. Vilsack shares the benefits of agricultural biotechnology and why his agency supports an approach that includes the technology:
“Our new trade strategy also has to focus on biotechnology and developing a way in which we can do a better job of using that science, a better understanding of the environmental benefits that could occur from biotechnology — less pesticides and less chemicals, less damage to the environment, greater productivity at a time when the world’s population continues to expand and the available land for productivity shrinks because cities are expanding.”
Sec. Vilsack also talks about biofuels and agriculture’s potential in leading America towards a better and safer energy future.
“There is an enormous opportunity for this country in the area of energy. I have seen it in my home state of Iowa. It can be replicated across the country, which is why we have put a lot of time and effort into developing the biofuels task force report for the president, a discussion of how we might be able to use agriculture’s power, either in terms of production of crops or production of crop residue, or production of forest and biomass, that can create new opportunities for this country to make us far less dependent than we are today on foreign energy sources. It is time for America to take back its energy destiny. It can do this through the farmers and ranchers and rural communities of this country. Every sector of our nation, every geographic area of our nation, can contribute to this.”
You can read Sec. Vilsack’s full remarks here. You can watch the video of his speech here.
Last Friday Pat Hill from DTN blogged about this year’s USDA Agriculture Outlook Forum, an annual event since 1923 that is meant to provide farmers and ranchers, government, and agribusinesses with sound information for decision-making. This year, the theme for the forum was “Sustainable Agriculture: the Key to Health and Prosperity.”
Pat Hill reported on the panel “Sustainability, Stakeholders and Customers: Achieving a Healthier 21st Century.” The panel featured speakers with very different backgrounds, from Dr. Nina Fedoroff, science and technology advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State, to Richard Schniedres, retired CEO of Sysco Corp, and Walter Robb, CEO of Whole Foods. Dr. Fedoroff discussed the potential effects a changing climate will have on agriculture and food supply, and stressed the need for crops that can withstand a lack of water or increased salinity. According to Dr. Fedoroff, these steps will promote sustainable agriculture and feed the world.
Walter Robb came in with a different perspective, arguing that the popularity of his store Whole Foods, known for its commitment to organic foods, signals a “food revolution.” According to Robb, his customers want labeling on GM food and equate sustainability with organic foods.
Roger Beachy keynoted the forum, and used his role to emphasize that the future of agriculture needs a unified approach that draws on many different methods to achieve sustainability.
CBI previously blogged about a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos called “Rethinking How to Feed the World.” The panel featured notable leaders and CEOs including Jakaya M. Kikwete, President of Tanzania; Ellen Kullman, CEO of Dupont USA and Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft and co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The panel’s moderator asked Bill Gates, “Are you for or against genetically modified (GM) food?” Mr. Gates showed his support for the transgenic approach, saying it can “probably do better than any other approach” and called the disease resistance opportunities in GM crops “a real help.” Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms which have inserted DNA that originated in a different species.
Given the rising number of people worldwide that are malnourished or undernourished, Bill Gates advises that we look into all available crop production options. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is currently supporting many organizations that are responsible for helping small farmers in the developing world grow more food and funding R&D in agriculture including ag biotech. For example, the Foundation funds HarvestPlus, a nonprofit that supports molecular breeding research (a type of transgenic engineering that modifies a crop for traits such as disease resistance using genes native to the crop) towards improving plant nutrition in Africa and Asia.
You can watch Bill Gates’ response to the question about GM food here.
Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle addressed the importance of biotechnology in feeding the world in a recent Politico article.
He writes, “In the past 25 years alone, farmers in the United States have boosted corn production by more than 40 percent. And products in the ag pipeline offer the promise of nutritional outputs that will improve products and boost yields. In order to realize these new technologies, we must foster innovation by incentivizing and encouraging investment in biotech and broader agricultural research and development.”
Daschle believes there are four core pillars on which agricultural leaders must organize an agenda:
1. We must support scientific and technological innovation in agriculture.
2. We must facilitate an open, competitive marketplace.
3. We must collaborate to innovate.
4. We must empower farmers worldwide with the tools necessary to meet this growing demand.
He concludes, “The challenges we face are daunting. But I remain confident that harnessing the innovation of our policymakers, scientists and farmers around the world will put us on track to feed the world and preserve its resources. Indeed, we have no other choice.”