Global Biotech/GM Crop Plantings Increase 100-fold from 1996

  Global Biotech/GM Crop Plantings Increase 100-fold from 1996

Developing Countries, Including New Adopters Sudan and Cuba, Now Dominate Use
                              of the Technology

Business Wire

MANILA, Philippines -- February 20, 2013

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 regions.

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 CO[2] 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.

Unprecedented Growth

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 million hectares, versus 3
percent or 1.6 million hectares in industrial countries.

A record 17.3 million farmers grew biotech crops worldwide in 2012, up 0.6
million from a year earlier. Over 90 percent of these farmers, or more than 15
million, were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries. “Global
food insecurity, exacerbated by high and unaffordable food prices, is a
formidable challenge to which biotech crops can contribute,” James said.

Sudan and Cuba Make History

Sudan and Cuba planted biotech crops for the first time last year. By growing
biotech cotton, Sudan became the fourth country in Africa, after South Africa,
Burkina Faso and Egypt, to commercialize a biotech crop.

Meanwhile, Cuban farmers planted 3,000 hectares of hybrid biotech maize as
part of an initiative to bolster ecological sustainability and remain
pesticide free.

Of the 28 countries that planted biotech crops, 20 were developing and eight
were industrial countries, compared to 19 developing and 10 industrial
countries in 2011. Approximately 60 percent of the world’s population, or
about 4 billion people, live in the 28 countries planting biotech crops.

Brazil Biotech Crops Grow 21 percent

China, India, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, which together represent
approximately 40 percent of the global population, grew 78.2 million hectares
or 46 percent of global biotech crops in 2012.

For the fourth consecutive year, Brazil was the engine of growth globally in
2012, fortifying itself as a global leader in biotech crops. Brazil ranks
second only to the U.S. in worldwide biotech crop hectarage, growing at a
year-to-year record 6.3 million hectares, or a substantial 21 percent, to
reach 36.6 million hectares in 2012 compared to 30.3 million in 2011.

A fast-track science-based approval system allows Brazil to adopt new biotech
crops in a timely manner. For instance, the South American country was the
first to approve the stacked soybean with insect resistance and herbicide
tolerance for commercialization in 2013, James said.

India cultivated a record 10.8 million hectares of biotech cotton with an
adoption rate of 93 percent, while 7.2 million small resource-poor farmers in
China grew 4.0 million hectares of biotech cotton with an adoption rate of 80

U.S. Remains the World’s Largest Grower

The U.S. continued to be the lead country with 69.5 million hectares, with an
average of 90 percent adoption across all crops. The report notes that the
devastating 2012 drought hit various crops. The most recent estimates indicate
that due to the drought, average yields in 2012 were 21 percent less for maize
and 12 percent less for soybeans compared with 2011 yields.

Canada, on the other hand, had a record 8.4 million hectares of canola at a
record 97.5 percent adoption. The EU countries grew a record 129,071 hectares
of Bt maize in 2012, but Germany and Sweden could not continue to plant the
biotech potato Amflora because it ceased to be marketed; Poland discontinued
planting biotech maize because of regulation inconsistencies in the
interpretation of the law with the EU maintaining that all necessary approvals
were already in place for planting, whereas Poland did not.

Challenges Remain

The lack of appropriate, science-based and cost-time-effective regulatory
systems continues to be the major constraint to adoption of biotech crops.
Responsible, rigorous but not onerous, regulation is needed for small and poor
developing countries, James said.

“Biotech crops are important but are not a panacea,” he added. “Adherence to
good farming practices, such as rotations and resistance management, are a
must for biotech crops as they are for conventional crops.”

The near-term looks encouraging with new improved products such as the first
biotech drought tolerant maize approved for planting in the USA in 2013 and
also the first planting of the stacked soybean in Brazil and neighboring
countries in South America in 2013. In the Philippines, Vitamin A enhanced
Golden rice could be released in 2013/2014 subject to regulatory approval.
Going forward, global growth of biotech crop hectares is likely to be more
modest due to the already high rate of adoption in all the principal crops in
mature markets in both developing and industrial countries, James noted.

For more information or the executive summary, visit

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications
(ISAAA) is a not-for-profit organization with an international network of
centers designed to contribute to the alleviation of hunger and poverty by
sharing knowledge and crop biotechnology applications. Clive James, chairman
and founder of ISAAA, has lived and/or worked for the past 30 years in the
developing countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa, devoting his efforts
to agricultural research and development issues with a focus on crop
biotechnology and global food security.


John Dutcher, 515-334-3464
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