In a speech to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Private Sector Day, Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska emphasized the importance of agricultural biotechnology for world food security and the need for minimizing regulatory delays to the approval of biotech products.
He explained his support for adopting biotechnology worldwide to meet global demand for food. “It is vital for the United States and other countries to support science-based standards and systems that will bring agricultural biotechnology products to the market to meet this demand.”
Senator Johanns pointed out the contributions of biotechnology to soybean and corn production. “Technological advances have not only increased yields, they have also increased the efficiency with which the crop is produced.”
When noting that the length of time for USDA deregulation has increased on average by more than 700 percent, he said, “We risk jeopardizing the tremendous progress we have made in food production.”
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) released its annual report on the global status of commercialized biotech crops in 2010. The ISAAA report discusses major developments impacting biotech crop adoption, including this year’s record amount of hectarage dedicated to biotech crops and landmark decisions by Pakistan, Myanmar and Sweden to approve the planting of the crops.
Take a look at the full ISAAA report and charts to learn 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 2010 ISAAA report include:
- Biotech crops occupy about 10% or 1.5 billion hectares (3.7 billion acres) of total global cropland- up significantly from 7% or 134 million hectares (331 million acres) in 2009.
- The number of countries planting biotech crops increased to 29, up from 25 in 2009, with for the first time two struggling economies Pakistan and Myanmar planting biotech cotton to improve food security, and the first Scandinavian adopter Sweden planting a high-quality biotech starch potato.
- The United States remained by far the largest grower of biotech crops, with 66.8 million hectares (165 million acres) planted in 2010, up 4 percent from 2009.
- Developing countries increased their share of global biotech crops to almost 48% in 2010, and are expected to exceed developed countries in the future.
- The use of genetically modified seeds grew the fastest in Brazil, with a 4 million hectare increase from 2009.
- Biotech soybean continued to be the dominant crop in 2010, occupying 73.3 million hectares or 50% of global biotech area, followed by biotech maize at 31%, biotech cotton at 14%, and biotech canola with 5% of the global biotech crop area.
- Since 1996, a total of 59 countries have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crops for import for food and feed use and for release into the environment.
- About 12 countries are expected to adopt biotech crops for the first time between 2011 and 2015, bringing the total number of countries adopting biotech crops to approximately 40 in 2015.
Biotechnology solutions could help prevent deforestation
According to TIME’s Ecocentric Blog, research on improving agricultural productivity and efficiency is crucial for helping to prevent deforestation. While the UN Climate Summit’s proposed REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) has received international support, this system of carbon credits to maintain trees could face challenges as farmers clear more land to meet growing global demands for food. The article points out, “Over the longer term, better investment in agricultural research-which has lagged in recent years-can lead to better yields and higher efficiency, reducing the need for more land.” Agricultural biotechnology research provides solutions for growing more crops on less land. Read more.
Australian celebrity chefs voice support for GM food
Two of Australia’s top chefs, Luke Mangan and Glenn Austin, recognize the benefits of genetically engineered food, The Daily Telegraph reports. The article points out that Chef Luke Mangan of the Sydney restaurant glass brasserie has remained receptive to the use of GM food since he wrote a blog in 2008 supporting it as an innovation that could “potentially help millions of people around the world.” He explains in the article, “More info is required but some benefits sound fantastic - drought resistance, higher levels of production and sustainability in the food supply.” Glenn Austin, the first Australian to be voted to the World Board of Chefs and a chef of a multinational dairy company that supports agricultural biotechnology, would like chefs to learn more about the benefits of the technology. “There are a few (chefs) who are trying to have a beat-up about it and they are quite ill-informed. If they went through their own cupboards, they would find that most of what is in there contains genetically modified food,” he said. Read more.
Increased rice yields important for feeding growing world population, BBC News reports
According to a report by the BBC News, rice will play an essential role in meeting the demands of a growing world population. “In 40 years, the global population is expected to swell by 2 billion, so rice, today the fastest growing staple which feeds more than half the world’s population, will become increasingly important to global food security.” The article discusses the role of biotechnology in improving yields for Vietnam, now the world’s second biggest exporter after Thailand. Read more.
CBI Expert Dr. Pamela Ronald, Professor of Plant Pathology at UC-Davis and author of Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food, provided CBI, in the lead-up to our BIO 2010 panel about public perception and agricultural biotechnology, her expert opinion on this important topic. Thanks, Pam!
Council for Biotechnology Information: What do you believe is the public’s perception of agricultural biotechnology and do you believe this is a fair portrayal of the science?
Dr. Ronald: There is no doubt that GE [genetically engineered] crops have an image problem in Europe and in some parts of the US. Part of the problem is that many see the process of GE as a tool that only benefits large corporations and large farmers in the US and other countries. But it’s also a tool for breeding, it’s a tool for biologists, it’s a tool for farmers. READ MORE »
CBI Expert Dr. Bruce Chassy, Professor of food microbiology and nutritional sciences at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-founder of Academics Review, will be participating in CBI’s panel at the 2010 BIO International Convention about public perception and agricultural biotechnology. He was kind of enough to offer us some of his initial thoughts on this critical subject. We look forward to hearing more from Dr. Chassy on May 5 at BIO 2010!
Council for Biotechnology Information: What do you believe is the public’s perception of agricultural biotechnology, and do you believe this is a fair portrayal of the science?
Dr. Chassy: I think the regular surveys that IFIC (International Food Information Council) does provide a pretty good insight into what the majority of consumers are thinking. Their most recent survey shows that great the majority of Americans do not view ag biotech, and in particular transgenic crops or GM [Genetically Modified] foods, as a food safety concern. READ MORE »