Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Rise and Rise of Biotech/GM Crops

While the critics of biotech/GM crops are busy trying to impede the approvals and commercial cultivation of the crops, farmers are happily increasing their hectarage.

A record 181.5 million hectares of biotech crops were grown globally last year - an increase of more than six million hectares from 2013.

This is according to a report released here today by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).

With the addition of Bangladesh, a total of 28 countries grew biotech crops during the year. The 20 developing and eight industrial countries where biotech crops are produced represent more than 60 percent of the world's population.

"The accumulated hectarage of biotech crops grown in 1996 to 2014 equals, roughly, 80 percent more than the total land mass of China," said Clive James, ISAAA Founder and report author.

"Global hectarage has increased more than 100-fold since the first plantings of biotech crops."
Since 1996, more than 10 food and fiber biotech crops have been approved and commercialized around the world. These range from major commodities such as maize, soybean and cotton, to fruits and vegetables like papaya, eggplant and, most recently, potato.

The traits of these crops address common issues affecting crop, benefits to the consumer and production rates for farmers, including drought tolerance, insect and disease resistance, herbicide tolerance and increased nutrition and food quality.

Biotech crops contribute to more sustainable crop production systems and provide resilient responses to the challenges of climate change. 

Two apparent push for biotech crops were political will as exemplified by the Minister for Agriculture in Bangladesh by approving Bt brinjal and bringing it to the farms in less than 100 days of approval and the private-public partnerships as for drought-tolerant sugar cane (Indonesia) and drought-tolerant and insect-resistant maize (Africa) and herbicide-tolerant soybean (Brazil).

By Mahaletchumy Arujanan

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