For the first time since the introduction of biotech/GM crops almost two
decades ago, developing countries have grown more hectares of biotech
crops than industrialized countries, contributing to food security and
further alleviating poverty in some of the world's most vulnerable
Developing nations planted 52 percent of the global biotech crops in 2012, up from 50 percent a year earlier and above the 48 percent industrial countries grew last year, according to a report released today by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).
Last year also marked an unprecedented 100-fold increase in biotech crop hectarage to 170 million hectares from 1.7 million in 1996, when biotech crops were first commercialized. "This makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent history," said Clive James, veteran author of the annual report and chair and founder of ISAAA.
Adoption of biotech crops in developing countries has built up steadily over the years, finally turning the corner and surpassing industrial countries in 2012, a milestone once thought impossible by some, James said. This comes about as the world grows more biotech crops than ever before.
"This growth is contrary to the prediction of critics, who prior to the commercialization of the technology in 1996 prematurely declared that biotech crops were only for industrial countries, and would never be accepted and adopted by developing countries," James said.
The report underscores rising awareness in developing countries about the benefits of planting genetically modified crops, which not only have increased yields, but also bring savings in fuel, time and machinery, reduction in pesticide use, higher quality of product and more growing cycles.
From 1996 to 2011, biotech crops contributed to food security, sustainability, and climate change by: increasing crop production valued at US$98.2 billion; providing a better environment by saving 473 million kg a.i. of pesticides; in 2011 alone reducing CO2 emissions by 23 billion kg, equivalent to taking 10.2 million cars off the road; conserving biodiversity by saving 108.7 million hectares of land; and helped alleviate poverty by helping >15.0 million small farmers and their families totaling >50 million people who are some of the poorest people in the world. Biotech crops are essential but are not a panacea and adherence to good farming practices such as rotations and resistance management, are a must for biotech crops as they are for conventional crops.
Globally, farmers grew a record 170.3 million hectares of biotech crops in 2012, up 6 percent, or 10.3 million hectares more than in 2011, boosting farmers' income worldwide due to enhanced productivity and efficiency gains.
"There is one principal and overwhelming reason that underpins the trust and confidence of farmers in biotechnology: biotech crops deliver substantial, and sustainable, socio-economic and environmental benefits," James said.
Resource-Poor Farmers Benefit the Most
ISAAA's report also confirmed that the rate and scale of biotech crop adoption in developing countries dwarfs that of industrialized nations. The growth rate for biotech crops was at least three times as fast, and five times as large, in developing countries, at 11 percent or 8.7
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