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In 2010, just 15 years after the first biotech crops were commercialized, farmers in 29 countries planted and produced biotech crops on 148 million hectares (366 million acres), according to a report published earlier this year by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
“Growth remains strong, with biotech hectarage increasing 14 million hectares (34.6 million acres) – or 10 percent – between 2009 and 2010,” said Clive James, author of the ISAAA report. “That’s the second highest annual hectare growth ever.”
The report noted that the United States leads the way in acres planted at 165 million in 2010, followed by Brazil (63 million), Argentina (57 million), India (23 million), Canada (22 million), China (9 million), Paraguay (6 million), Pakistan (6 million), South Africa (5 million) and Uruguay (3 million).
While the United States has been a leading adopter of biotech crops – reaching 94 percent of soybeans, 90 percent of cotton and 88 percent of corn acres this year – other countries, including Brazil, are expediting approvals of biotech crops. Brazil approved eight crops in 2010 alone, including approving one before the United States.
Of the 15.4 million farmers using the technology in 2010, 14.4 million were small-scale, resource-poor farmers in developing countries; these farmers are some of the poorest people in the world and biotech crops are contributing to the alleviation of their poverty, according to James. China and India now have the most small-scale farmers using biotech crops, with 6.5 million Chinese farmers and 6.3 million Indian farmers planting biotech crop seed. Remarkably, over the last 15 years, farmers worldwide have made 100 million independent decisions to plant biotech crops.
More than 1 billion people throughout Asia, who are members of the 250 million small-scale rice-producing households cultivating about one-half hectare, are potential beneficiaries from the expected commercialization of insect-resistant Bt rice expected to be introduced before 2015, James noted.
“This is important progress,” said James. “Up to 6,000 deaths a day can be prevented with Golden Rice for Vitamin A deficient populations, which is expected to be available for planting in the Philippines by 2013 followed by Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.”