After a dozen years of commercialization, biotech crops are still gaining ground with another year of double-digit growth and new countries joining the list of supporters, according to a report released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). In 2007, biotech crop area grew 12 percent or 12.3 million hectares to reach 114.3 million hectares, the second highest area increase in the past five years.
In addition to planting more biotech hectares, farmers are quickly adopting varieties with more than one biotech trait. These "trait hectares" grew at a swift 22 percent, or 26 million hectares, to reach 143.7 million hectares - more than double the area increase of 12.3 million hectares. New crops were also added to the list as China reported 250,000 biotech poplar trees planted. The insect-resistant trees can contribute to reforestation efforts.
Further, 2 million more farmers planted biotech crops last year to total 12 million farmers globally enjoying the advantages from the improved technology. Notably, 9 out of 10, or 11 million of the benefiting farmers, were resource-poor farmers, exceeding the 10-million milestone for the first
time. In fact, the number of developing countries (12) planting biotech crops surpassed the number of industrialized countries (11), and the growth rate in the developing world was three times that of industrialized nations (21 percent compared to 6 percent.)
"With increasing food prices globally, the benefits of biotech crops have never been more important," said Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA and the report's author. "Already those farmers who began adopting biotech crops a few years ago are beginning to see socio-economic advantages compared to their peers who haven't adopted the crops. If we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of cutting hunger and poverty in half by 2015, biotech crops must play an even bigger role in the next decade."
According to the report, biotech crops have delivered unprecedented benefits that contribute toward the MDGs, particularly in countries like China, India and South Africa. The potential in the second decade of biotech crop commercialization (2006-2015) is enormous.