Genetically Modified Crop Cultivation Rising Around The World

Jan Smith/CC BY 1.0

The U.S. may plant more biotech crops than anywhere else in the world—170.43 million acres' worth in 2011, with Brazil in second at 75 million acres under cultivation—but other countries are catching up.

According to the just-released annual report on biotech seed use from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), planting of genetically modified crops globally grew 8% last year. Growth by developing countries jumped by about 50%.

According to the ISAAA:

For the first time [cultivation in developing countries is] expected to exceed industrial countries hectarage in 2012; this 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."

ISAAA provides some perspective on the full timeline of biotech agriculture:

A 94-fold increase in hectarage from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 160 million hectares in 2011 makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.

A Hidden Agenda?
The ISAAA is a nonprofit that exists to promote the use of crop biotechnology around the world, specifically among "resource-poor farmers in developing countries." Bloomberg explains that "it's funded by governments, foundations and companies including Monsanto Co., the world’s biggest seed company."

ISAAA neglects to mention that many industrialized countries have banned the growth of genetically engineered crops—a position the U.S. vehemently opposed, at least while Bush was in power—which seems like a significant factor if you're going to compare growth rates in industrialized vs. developing nations.

What's Growing Where
In the U.S., genetically modified crops include corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugarbeet, alfalfa, papaya and squash; in most other countries, they're limited to one or two crops, mostly corn, cotton or soybeans. Here's a chart with more info from ISAAA:

ISAAA/Screen capture

Tags: Agriculture | Developing Nations | Genetically Modified Food | Genetic Engineering

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