The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) today released a report showing that more than 18 million farmers in 27 countries planted biotech crops in 2013, reflecting a five million, or three percent, increase in global biotech crop hectarage. 2013 also marks the first-ever commercial plantings of drought-tolerant biotech maize in the United States.
Global biotech crop hectarage has increased from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to over 175 million hectares in 2013. During this 18 year period, more than a 100-fold increase of commercial biotech crop hectarage has been reported. The United States continues to lead global biotech crop plantings at 70.1 million hectares or 40 percent of total global hectares.
“Accumulated hectarage of biotech crops planted worldwide to-date stands at 1.6 billion hectares or 150 percent of the total landmass of China,” said Clive James, author of the report and ISAAA Founder and Chairman Emeritus. “Each of the top ten countries planting biotech crops during 2013 planted more than one million hectares, providing a broad foundation for future growth.”
According to the report, more than 90 percent, or 16.5 million, of farmers planting biotech crops are small and resource-poor. Of the countries planting biotech crops, eight are industrial countries and 19 are developing countries. For the second year, developing countries planted more hectares of biotech crops than industrialized countries, representing confidence and trust of millions of risk-averse farmers around the world that have experienced the benefits of these crops. Nearly 100 percent of farmers who try biotech crops continue to plant them year after year, the report notes.
The report highlighted drought tolerance as an important development. In the United States, approximately 2,000 farmers in the drought-prone Corn Belt planted about 50,000 hectares of the first biotech drought-tolerant maize. Also, Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, developed and approved planting of the world’s first drought-tolerant sugarcane and plans to commercialize it for planting in 2014. Biotech drought-tolerant maize technology has been donated to Africa through the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project, a public/private partnership by Monsanto and BASF, funded by the Gates and Buffet foundations and implemented through the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico and Kenya-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). Drought is the biggest constraint to maize productivity in Africa on which 300 million Africans depend for survival.
Biotech crops were also noted as a major benefit to food security, sustainability and the environment. Between 1996 and 2012, biotech crops have made positive contributions through: decreased production costs and increased productivity (estimated at 377 million tons) valued at US $117 billion; environmental benefits by eliminating the need for 497 million kg (a.i.) of pesticides; reduced CO2 emissions by 27 billion kg in 2012 alone (equivalent to removing 12 million cars from the road for one year); conserving biodiversity by saving 123 million hectares of land from being placed in agricultural production during the period 1996 to 2012; and alleviating poverty for 16.5 million small farmers and farm families, totaling more than 65 million people.
You can read the full press release at the ISAAA.org.
Summary of the report on the ISAAA blog
Executive Summary of the report
Infographics explaining the key findings
Highlights of the report on video