The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) has reported that biotech crops reached 160 million hectares in 2011, an increase of 12 million hectares or 8 percent over 2010. Since first introduced in 1996, according to ISAAA, the increase in plantings to date makes biotech crops “the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.”
While the adoption of biotech crops has been remarkable, an equally important story is behind the numbers. The adoption is not limited to developed countries but is also being embraced by farmers in developing countries, and some 29 countries worldwide are now growing these crops.
The principal reason behind this growth, ISAAA says, is that “biotech crops deliver substantial, and sustainable, socio-economic and environmental benefits.”
The United States continues to lead in the number of hectares planted, with Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay, Pakistan, South Africa and Uruguay rounding out the Top 10. Crops planted include corn/maize, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugarbeets, alfalfa, papaya, squash, tomatoes, sweet peppers, poplar, and potatoes (not all crops are grown in all countries). Monsanto’s businesses include corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugarbeets and alfalfa.
Other key facts cited in the ISAAA report are:
- Some 16.7 million farmers grew biotech crops in 2011, up 1.3 million from 2010 – “notably, 15 million or 90% were small resource-poor farmers from developing countries.”
- Almost half of the biotech crops worldwide are grown in developing countries.
- Stacked traits represent about 25 percent of the global total hectares.
- The five developing countries leading in biotech crop plantings are China, India, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, accounting for 40 percent of the world’s population. Brazil is emerging as a global leader in biotech crops.
- Bt cotton has transformed cotton production in India, while in China, seven million farmers are growing Bt cotton on 3.9 million hectares.
- Six countries in the European Union increased their plantings of Bt maize – Spain, Portugal, Poland Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.
- Biotech soybeans are the leading biotech crop and account for 47 percent of total plantings.
A story in Farm Chemicals International has taken a look at the ISAAA report and concludes that developing economies are the new face of the biotech boom.
Farm Chemicals International: Developing Economies: New Face of the Biotech Boom.
The Bloomberg story on the ISAAA report.