Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published February 17, 2014, 10:05 AM

Growth of biotech crops plateaus

The growth of biotech crops in the U.S. appears to have hit a plateau, but farmers are accelerating plantings in Asia, although it still remains a much smaller market, according to an industry report issued Feb.13.

By: Carey Gillam, Reuters

The growth of biotech crops in the U.S. appears to have hit a plateau, but farmers are accelerating plantings in Asia, although it still remains a much smaller market, according to an industry report issued Feb.13.

Farmers around the world grew a record 433 million acres of biotech crops in 2013, up 3 percent from 2012, with American and Brazilian farmers continuing to be the dominant users, according to the International Service for

the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, a pro-biotech industry organization.

Critics of genetically modified crops accuse the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications of inflating figures in the European Union and developing countries to show growing support for biotech crops. Particularly in the European Union, opponents of biotech crops say they lead to increased pesticide use and environmental damage and have not been proven safe for human and animal consumption.

Backers say the crops are no different than normal crops.

“Biotech crops are demonstrating their global value as a tool for resource-poor farmers who face decreased water supplies and increased weed and pest pressures — and the effects of climate change will only continue to expand the need for this technology,” says ISAAA Chairman Clive James.

Farmers in the U.S. planted an estimated 70.1 million hectares, or 173 million acres, last year with corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa and other crops that have all been genetically altered, the report said. That was up less than 1 percent over 2012 plantings.

In Brazil, farmers planted 40.3 million hectares, or 99.5 million acres to biotech soy, corn and cotton, up 10 percent over 2012, according to the ISAAA, which annually releases a survey of biotech crop plantings around the world.

While growth was hitting a plateau in the U.S., where biotech crops were first introduced in 1996, plantings in China grew 5 percent in 2013 to 4.2 million hectares (10 million acres), the report says

Overall, ISAAA says the global value of biotech crops was estimated at $15.6 billion in 2013, up from $14.6 billion in 2012.

Some critics of biotech crops say the numbers are dubious and the report is more promotional than factual.

“It is an industry publication and they use fake numbers to show a groundswell of use of GMO crops,” says Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute, a California-based think tank and policy group that focuses on global agriculture. “But the evidence is coming in around the world that shows the crops are failing and farmers are turning away.”

The Africa Centre for Biosafety accused ISAAA of inflating plantings in South Africa and says that ISAAA’s numbers were at odds with a trend there away from genetically modified plantings.

Also in 2009, critics accused ISAAA of inflating numbers for crop plantings in the European Union.

ISAAA spokesman John Dutcher says the group would not comment on the complaints.

Tags: