Thursday, March 5, 2009

Highlights of the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2008

Every year, this time we are furnished with the latest statistics of the global status of GM crops, comprehensively reviewed by ISAAA. This is the most cited publication in agribiotechnology and at any major agribiotech conference, you will not miss the famous world map that depicts countries that grow GM crops.  

I would like to share the summary of the Brief 39 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2008 by Clive James. 

  * As a result of consistent and substantial economic, environmental and welfare benefits, a record 13.3 million large, small and resource-poor farmers continued to plant significantly more hectares of biotech crops in 2008. This is an increase of 1.3 million farmers compared to 2007. Notably, 90%, or 12.3 million were small and resource-poor farmers in developing countries. Biotech crops have improved the income and quality of life of small and resource-poor farmers and their families, and contributed to the alleviation of their poverty – case studies are cited in Brief 39 for India, China, South Africa, and the Philippines.
  * The number of countries planting biotech crops soared to 25.

  * Notably, of the 25 countries planting biotech crops, 15 were developing countries versus only 10 industrial countries.

  * Progress in Africa – number of countries increased from one (South Africa) in 2007, to three in 2008, with Burkina Faso (cotton) and Egypt (maize) planting biotech crops, for the first time. These are very important developments given that biotech crops contribute to some of the major challenges facing global society including: food, feed and fiber security; lower price of food; sustainability; alleviation of poverty and hunger; and mitigation of some of the challenges associated with climate change.

  * Global hectarage of biotech crops continued its strong growth in 2008 for the thirteenth consecutive year – a 9.4%, or 10.7 million hectare increase, reaching 125 million hectares. 

 * Stacked traits are an increasingly important feature of biotech crops. Ten countries planted approximately 27 million hectares of stacked traits in 2008 and at 23% growth, they grew faster than single traits.

  * Five principal developing countries: China, India, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa, with a combined population of 2.6 billion, are exerting leadership with biotech crops, and driving global adoption – benefits from biotech crops are spurring strong political will and substantial new investments in biotech crops in several of these lead countries. 

  * Notably, all seven EU countries planting Bt maize increased their hectarage in 2008, resulting in an overall increase of 21%, to reach over 107,000 hectares.  

  * In 2007, biotech crops saved 14.2 billion kg of CO2 equivalent to 6.3 million less cars.  

  * The global value of the biotech crop market in 2008 was US$7.5 billion with an accumulated historical milestone value of US$50 billion for the period 1996 to 2008.

  * Economic gains due to the adoption of GM crops during the period of 1996-2007 was US$44 billion.

  * An additional 43 million hectares would have been required to gain the same production had GM crops not been deployed – a land-saving technology.

The impressive contribution of biotech crops to sustainability is reviewed: 1) Contributing to food, feed and fiber security including more affordable food (lower prices); 2) Conserving biodiversity; 3) Contributing to the alleviation of poverty and hunger; 4) Reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint; 5) Helping mitigate climate change and reducing greenhouse gases; 6) Contributing to more cost-effective production of biofuels; and 7) Contributing to sustainable economic benefits worth US$44 billion from 1996 to 2007. In summary, collectively these seven thrusts are a significant contribution to sustainability and the potential for the future is enormous.  

In agricultural-based and transforming developing countries, biotech crops are an engine of rural economic growth, which in turn can contribute substantially to national economic growth.  

With the success and potential of GM crops, there is an urgent need for appropriate cost/time-effective regulatory systems for biotech crops that are responsible, but not onerous, and affordable for developing countries.  
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By Mahaletchumy Arujanan (adapted from Clive James’ summary)

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