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World Acceptance Of Biotech Crops Continues To Grow

Published on 13 February 2014

Discover the World Of Judaica

by Kathryn McConnell


Washington, D.C.

Acceptance of crops developed through biotechnology continued to expand in 2013 with more than 18 million farmers in 27 countries planting more than 175 million hectares with scientifically improved seeds that produced high yields of food, feed and fiber, according to an international agricultural research group.

In its report Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013, released February 13, the nonprofit International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) said 2013 was the 18th year of growing acceptance of biotech plantings. It said 90 percent of the farmers who planted biotech were small holders and that nearly all had planted biotech seeds in previous years. It also said that for the second year, developing countries planted more biotech hectares than industrial countries. Biotech crops were first commercialized in 1996.

“Biotech crops are demonstrating their global value as a tool for resource-poor farmers who face decreased water supplies and increased weed and pest pressures,” said ISAAA founder Clive James. “The effects of climate change will only continue to expand the need for this technology.” He said the growth in acceptance represents the confidence and trust of millions of risk-averse farmers “who have gained from the significant benefits that biotech crops offer.”

The United States supports the safe use of science and technology, including biotechnology, to help meet agricultural challenges and consumer needs of the 21st century. It has supported ISAAA’s work through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

James touted public-private partnerships for helping to spread awareness of the benefits of biotech crops such as drought-tolerant maize. “Partnership between the public and private sectors allows you to do something that no party can do on its own.” He said research and development partnerships “combined with political will are necessary for biotech crop adoption and sustainability.”

James cited one such partnership: the Water Efficient Maize for Africa project to develop drought-tolerant maize that involves the U.S. seed developer Monsanto Company, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He called drought “the biggest constraint to maize productivity in Africa.”

Through another public-private partnership with Cornell University in New York and USAID, ISAAA is helping to make more members of the public aware of the benefits of biotech, also called genetic engineering or genetic modification, James said.

The report noted that developing countries are continuing to push forward with biotech research and commercialization and “have demonstrated the political willpower to approve new biotech traits.”

The countries that grew biotech crops in 2013, in order of the number of hectares planted, are the United States, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay, South Africa, Pakistan, Uruguay, Bolivia, the Philippines, Australia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Sudan, Chile, Honduras, Portugal and Cuba. The top five producing countries each planted at least 1 million biotech hectares, the report states; the next five planted more than 50,000 hectares.

Notable advancements for biotech crops in 2013 include Bangladesh’s approval of an improved eggplant, the country’s first biotech approval; Indonesia’s approval of drought-tolerant sugarcane; and Panama’s approval of biotech maize for planting in 2014, James said. Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda are conducting field trials of biotech cotton while the Philippines is completing field trials of vitamin A–fortified golden rice.

Looking ahead, James said the Water Efficient Maize for Africa project in 2017 is expected to introduce the first “stacked” soybean containing both herbicide-tolerance and insect-resistance traits.

He said biotech crops also benefit food security and the environment. He said that between 1996 and 2012, the latest year for which data is available, biotech crops contributed $117 billion in environmental benefits by eliminating the need for nearly 500 kilograms of pesticides; reduced the need for tilling, which reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 27 billion kilograms; and saved 123 million hectares of land from being placed into agricultural production.

Biotech also helped raise the incomes of more than 16.5 million small-farm families, the report says.

The full report is available on the ISAAA website.


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Posted 2014-02-13 15:16:00