Thursday, February 13, 2014

18 Million Farmers in 27 Countries Planted 175.2 Million Hectares of Biotech Crops in 2013

The 2013 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GMCrops, authored by Clive James, Founder and Emeritus Chair of ISAAA, reports that a record 175.2 million hectares of biotech crops were grown globally last year, at an annual growth rate of 3%, or 5 million hectares more from 2012.  The global hectarage of biotech crops have increased more than 100-fold in 18 years, from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 175.2 million hectares in 2013, making biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent history.

Developing Countries Planted More Biotech Crop Hectares
Eighteen years since the first commercial planting of biotech crops, and for the second consecutive year since 2012, developing countries planted more biotech crop hectares than industrial countries, producing 54% of the total global production in 2013. Of the 27 countries that planted biotech crops last year, 19 were developing, while only 8 industrial countries planted biotech crops. 

More Farmers Are Planting and Replanting Biotech Crops
From 1996 to 2013, millions of farmers in almost 30 countries worldwide, elected to make more than 100 million independent decisions to plant and replant an accumulated hectarage of more than 1.6 billion hectares. In 2013 alone, a record 18 million farmers grew biotech crops, up by 0.7 million from 2012, of which more than 90% or over 16.5 million are small, resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

In China, 7.5 million small farmers benefited from biotech cotton, and in India there were 7.3 million beneficiary farmers. In addition to economic gains, farmers benefited enormously from at least 50% reduction in the number of insecticide applications, reducing farmer exposure to insecticides, and importantly contributed to a more sustainable environment and better quality of life.

Women farmers rest on a heap of Bt cotton bolls in China.
Clean Bt cotton bolls make farmers smile in India.
Farmers from Latin America, Asia, and Africa collectively grew 94 million hectares or 54% of the global 175 million biotech hectares (versus 52% in 2012), compared with industrial countries at 81 million hectares or 46% (versus 48% in 2012), almost doubling the hectare gap from 7 to almost 14 million hectares between 2012 to 2013, respectively. This trend is expected to continue, and 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, particularly small poor farmers.

The USA is Still the World’s Lead Producer of Biotech Crops
 The USA continued its leadership in producing biotech crops in 2013 with 70.1 million hectares, an average adoption rate of ~90% across all biotech crops. Since 2006, the USA has planted eight biotech crops, namely: maize, soybean, cotton, canola, sugar beet, alfalfa, papaya, and squash. 

Brazil Continues To Be The Engine Of Biotech Crop Growth Globally
Brazil ranks only second to the USA in biotech crop hectarage in the world with 40.3 million hectares, but emerging as a strong global leader in biotech crop production. For the fifth consecutive year, Brazil increased biotech crop plantings more than any other country in the world.

Progress in Africa
In Africa, continued progress has been made with Burkina Faso and Sudan increasing their Bt cotton hectarage substantially. In 2013, South Africa’s biotech hectarage was marginally less, but practically at the same level as 2012. Encouragingly an additional seven African countries (Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda) have conducted field trials on a broad range of “new” biotech crops (cotton, maize, bananas, and cowpeas), including several orphan crops such as sweet potato. 

A Bt cotton farmer in his field in Burkina Faso.
Five EU Countries Planted Biotech Crops in 2013
Five EU countries, planted a record 148,013 hectares of Bt maize in 2013, with Spain leading with a record 136,962 hectares of Bt maize. The remaining EU countries that planted biotech crops in 2013 are Portugal, Romania, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

Contribution of Biotech Crops to Food Security, Sustainability and Climate Change
From 1996 to 2013, biotech crops contributed to Food Security, Sustainability and Climate Change by:
·         increasing crop production valued at US$116.9 billion;
·         providing a better environment, by saving 497 million kg a.i. of pesticides; in 2012 alone reducing CO2 emissions by 26.7 billion kg, equivalent to taking 11.8 million cars off the road for one year;
·         conserving biodiversity in the period 1996-2012 by saving 123 million hectares of land; and
·         helped alleviate poverty by helping >16.5 million small farmers, and their families totaling >65 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world.

Future Prospects
The near-term looks optimistic with more modest annual gains expected due to the already high rates of adoption (90% or more) in the principal biotech crops in mature markets in both developing and industrial countries. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Panama approved biotech crop planting in 2013 with plans for commercialization in 2014.

For more information about ISAAA, visit the website at

The Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013 information resources, including the Executive Summary, Top Ten Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2013, Powerpoint Slides, Infographics, and videos are all available for download at:

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