MANILA, Philippines, Feb. 13 After a dozen years ofcommercialization, biotech crops are still gaining ground with another year ofdouble-digit growth and new countries joining the list of supporters,according to a report released today by the International Service for theAcquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). In 2007, biotech crop areagrew 12 percent or 30.3 million acres to reach 282.3 million acres, the secondhighest area increase in the past five years.
In addition to planting more biotech acres, farmers are quickly adoptingvarieties with more than one biotech trait. These "trait acres" grew at aswift 22 percent, or 64 million acres, to reach 354.9 million acres -- morethan double the area increase of 30.3 million acres. New crops were also addedto the list as China reported 250,000 biotech poplar trees planted. Theinsect-resistant trees can contribute to reforestation efforts.
Further, 2 million more farmers planted biotech crops last year to total12 million farmers globally enjoying the advantages from the improvedtechnology. Notably, 9 out of 10, or 11 million of the benefiting farmers,were resource-poor farmers, exceeding the 10-million milestone for the firsttime. In fact, the number of developing countries (12) planting biotech cropssurpassed the number of industrialized countries (11), and the growth rate inthe developing world was three times that of industrialized nations(21 percent compared to 6 percent.)
"With increasing food prices globally, the benefits of biotech crops havenever been more important," said Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAAand the report's author. "Already those farmers who began adopting biotechcrops a few years ago are beginning to see socio-economic advantages comparedto their peers who haven't adopted the crops. If we are to achieve theMillennium Development Goals (MDGs) of cutting hunger and poverty in half by2015, biotech crops must play an even bigger role in the next decade."
According to the report, biotech crops have delivered unprecedentedbenefits that contribute toward the MDGs, particularly in countries like China,India and South Africa. The potential in the second decade of biotech cropcommercialization (2006-2015) is enormous.
Studies in India and China show Bt cotton has increased yields by up to50 percent and 10 percent, respectively, and reduced insecticide use in bothcountries up to 50 percent or more. In India, growers increased income up to$250 or more per hectare, increasing farmer income nationally from$840 million to $1.7 billion last year. Chinese farmers saw similar gains withincomes growing an average of $220 per hectare, or more than $800 millionnationally. Importantly, these studies showed strong farmer confidence in thecrops with 9 of 10 Indian farmers replanting biotech cotton year on year, and100 percent of Chinese farmers choosing to continue utilizing the technology.
While these types of economic benefits are well substantiated, thesocio-economic benefits associated with biotech crops are starting to emerge.A study of 9,300 Bt cotton and non-Bt cotton-growing households in Indiaindicated that women and children in Bt cotton households have slightly moreaccess to social benefits than non-Bt cotton growers. These include slightincreases in pre-natal visits, assistance with at-home births, higher schoolenrollment for children and a higher proportion of children vaccinated.
Rosalie Ellasus, a widowed mother of 3 children, found similar benefits,choosing farming as a way to support her family. "With the extra incomegenerated from biotech maize, investing in farming made sense and allowed meto earn more than the medical technology field I was trained in," she said."The biotech maize gave me peace of mind and meant less time monitoring forpests. With stack corn, I also incur savings on cultivation and weeding costs.With the added inco