For the first time since the introduction of biotech or genetically modified (GM) crops almost two decades ago, developing countries have grown more hectares of biotech crops than industrialised countries, contributing to food security and further alleviating poverty in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions. Developing nations planted 52 per cent of the global biotech crops in 2012, up from 50 per cent a year earlier and above the 48 per cent industrial countries grew last year, according to a report released on Monhday by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA). ISAAA is a not-for-profit organisation with an international network of centres designed to contribute to the alleviation of hunger and poverty by sharing knowledge and crop biotechnology applications. Last year also marked an unprecedented 100-fold increase in biotech crop hectarage to 170 million hectares from 1.7 million in 1996 when biotech crops were first commercialised. “This makes biotech crops the fastest-adopted crop technology in recent history,” said Clive James, veteran author of the annual report and chair and founder, ISAAA. Adoption of biotech crops in developing countries has built up steadily over the years, finally turning the corner and surpassing industrial countries in 2012, a milestone once thought impossible by some, James said.
This comes about as the world grows more biotech crops than ever before. “This growth is contrary to the prediction of critics, who prior to the commercialisation 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,” James said. The report underscores rising awareness in developing countries about the benefits of planting genetically modified crops, which not only have increased yields, but also bring savings in fuel, time and machinery, reduction in pesticide use, higher quality of product and more growing cycles.