The leading GM crop is soy, with 24.4 million hectares planted in 2012, accounting for 88.8 percent of total soy production.
GM varieties accounted for 87.9 percent (6.9 million hectares) of the winter maize harvest. As for the summer maize crop, transgenic varieties cover 5.3 million hectares, or 64.8 percent of the total area planted.
Meanwhile, GM cotton makes up just over 50 percent (547,000 hectares) of the crops planned for the 2012-2013 agricultural year, according to CÉleres.
AraÚjo noted that
However, despite the technological advances made, there are still insufficient answers for a number of concerns about GM crops, he said.
“Caution is needed so as not to use this technology without the necessary discretion. Today,
MaurÍcio Lopes, president of the government agricultural research agency, EMBRAPA, emphasised another aspect.
The tropics are the world’s most challenging region for agriculture, due to the impacts of climate change and the need to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated by this human activity, he said.
“We need to make use of the entire technological arsenal available to us. We believe that modern biotechnology, nanotechnology, new sciences and new paradigms are important.
Lopes believes that the results of these past 10 years have been positive overall, but that it is important to make intelligent, planned and careful use of these new tools.
“We are in favour of transgenesis. We understand that there is a framework of methods and procedures for using it safely,” he noted. At the same time, however, he is critical of the fact that biotechnology remains under the control of a handful of global actors, such as agrifood corporations.
EMBRAPA is currently working on the development of new varieties of beans, tomatoes and papayas.
“We are testing a GM bean that is resistant to a terrible disease, known as bean golden mosaic virus, which is transmitted by an insect. This product has already been developed by EMBRAPA and we are now testing it,” said Lopes.
The next frontier will be vegetables. Brazilian scientists have already obtained a modified lettuce that contains large concentrations of folic acid.
“Folic acid is a key component in the diet of pregnant women, because of its importance for the nervous system development of the foetus. We are testing it and it will have to pass a long battery of tests. But it is a product which might be on our tables in the future,” he said.
While the proponents of GMOs claim that they can be a tool to combat hunger and reduce the use of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and micro-fertilisers, environmentalists warn of the risks they pose for agricultural biodiversity.
The environmental organisation
“We defend a model of agriculture that is based on agricultural biodiversity and does not use toxic products, because we understand that this is the only way we will have agriculture forever,” says a
Moreover, the group stresses, there is no consensus in the scientific community regarding the safety of GMOs for human health and the environment.
* This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the TierramÉrica network.
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