Biotech crops, on the heels of a robust 2008 and bolstered by increased political will to meet food demands, are poised for a second wave of strong adoption that will drive sustained global growth through the end of the second decade of commercialization 2006 to 2015, according the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).
An additional 1.3 million farmers planted 10.7 million new hectares of biotech crops in three new countries in 2008, according to the ISAAA brief Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2008. ISAAA has been tracking global biotech crop adoption trends since 1996.
In its annual study, ISAAA found that 13.3 million farmers in a record 25 countries planted 125 million hectares of biotech crops last year, the sixth largest growth spurt in 13 years of reporting. The 2 billionth cumulative acre of biotech crops also was planted in 2008, just three years after the first billionth acre, a milestone which required a decade to reach.
Most notably, in 2008 biotech farming began in the African nations of Egypt and Burkina Faso. Africa is considered the “final frontier” for biotech crops as it has perhaps the greatest need and most to gain. In 2008, Egypt planted 700 hectares of Bt maize and Burkina Faso planted 8,500 hectares of Bt cotton. They join South Africa, which since 1998 has benefited from biotech cotton, maize and soybean.
“Future growth prospects are encouraging,” said Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA and author of the report. “The positive experiences in these new regional footholds in south, north and west Africa will help lead the way for neighboring countries to learn by example. Additionally, political leaders globally are increasingly viewing biotech enhanced crops as a key part of the solution to critical social issues of food security and sustainability.”