Global bioengineered crop area up 10% in 2010

by Ron Sterk
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SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — Area planted to bioengineered crops in 2010 totaled 148 million hectares (370,000,000 million acres), up 10% from 2009, according to an annual report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

“Growth remains strong, with biotech hectarage increasing 14 million hectares, or 10%, between 2009 and 2010,” said Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA and author of the report. “That’s the second highest annual hectare growth ever, bringing 2010 global plantings to 148 million hectares.

“With an unprecedented 87-fold increase between 1996 and 2010, biotech crops are the fastest-adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture,” Mr. James said.

Total area planted to bioengineered crops in 2010 in 29 countries equaled about 10% of total global crop area, according to the report.

The 10 largest bioengineered crop growing countries had more than 1 million hectares each for the first time in 2010, according to the ISAAA report. Those included the United States with 66.8 million hectares, Brazil with 25.4 million, Argentina with 22.9 million, India with 9.4 million, Canada with 8.8 million, China with 3.5 million, Paraguay with 2.6 million, Pakistan with 2.4 million, South Africa with 2.2 million and Uruguay with 1.1 million.

The largest increase from 2009 was in Brazil, where bioengineered crop area increased 4 million hectares, or 19%. Brazil has 27 bioengineered crops, adding eight in 2010, and accounts for 17% of global bioengineered area, second only to the United States with 45% of the total.

“Developing countries grew 48% of global biotech crops in 2010 and will exceed industrialized nations in their plantings of biotech crops by 2015,” Mr. James said.

Additionally, of the 15.4 million farmers using bioengineered crops in 2010, 14.4 million were small-scale, resource-poor farmers in developing countries, including 6.5 million in China and 6.3 million in India, the report said.

Three new countries began using bioengineered crops in 2010, including Pakistan and Myanmar (both planting insect-resistant Bt cotton), and Sweden (planting a new high-quality starch potato approved for industrial and feed use). Germany resumed planting the same potatoes as Sweden in 2010, making it the eighth country in the European Union to be growing bioengineered corn or potatoes, the study said.

Area planted to the four major bioengineered crops — corn, soybeans, cotton and canola — still has the potential to more than double, according to the study, in part as drought tolerant corn is introduced possibly as early as 2012 in the United States and by 2017 in Africa.

Soybeans continued to be the largest grown bioengineered crop, comprising about 50% of the total area.

“The decision, four years ago, to delay biotech herbicide tolerant wheat also is being revisited and many countries are fast-tracking the development of biotech wheat with a range of traits including drought tolerance, disease resistance and grain quality — the first of which are expected to be ready for commercialization as early as 2017,” Mr. James said in the report.

The ISAAA is a not-for-profit organization with a goal of helping alleviate hunger and poverty by sharing knowledge and bioengineered crop applications. The report was funded by two European philanthropic organizations, the Bussolera-Branca Foundation in Italy and a unit within Ibercaja, a large Spanish bank.

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