Developing countries lead the way in planting of GM crops

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According to new figures released today by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), global adoption of genetically-modified (GM) crops reached 170.3 million hectares in 2012, an increase of 10 million hectares from the previous year. There was also a notable increase in the number of farmers using GM crops, with 17.3 million farmers now using biotechnology, up by 600,000 from 2011.

Figures also show that the areas planted with GM crops in emerging and developed countries exceed those of industrialised countries for the first time since 1996. Sudan and Cuba planted GM crops for the first time in 2012, whilst Brazil and Argentina continued their impressive growth in GM crops, with a total crop of nearly 37 million hectares and 24 million hectares planted respectively. However, in Europe, only Spain grew an appreciable amount of GM crops, with 116,000 hectares of insect-resistant maize grown last year. 

Commenting on the publication of the figures, Chair of abc Dr Julian Little said: 

“It is fantastic to see an increase in the number of farmers in the developing world enjoying the benefits of biotechnology, and today’s figures explode once and for all the myth that GM crops are all about big farming and big business. 

One of the major advantages of GM is that the technology is contained within the seed, and therefore is just as accessible to resource-poor small-scale cotton farmers in Sudan as it is to large-scale soy farmers in Brazil or the US. 

Wherever they are adopted around the world, biotech crops are increasingly popular with farmers for the simple reason that they deliver significant benefits over conventional varieties - helping farmers to increase their incomes, boosting yields and reducing their impact on the environment. 

It therefore remains disappointing that the dysfunctional EU approvals process denies farmers and scientists the chance to unlock the potential of biotechnologies in the UK.”

Dr Helen Ferrier, Chief Science Adviser at the National Farmers Union (NFU) added: 

“GM crops are a well-established part of the global agricultural supply chain. British farmers and growers operate their businesses within this global market and their competitiveness is affected by what producers do around the world. 

If we are to meet the challenges of sustainable intensification and become more resilient to the pressures of pests and diseases, volatile weather and declining resources we need access to the best tools and technologies. 

The current EU regulatory process for GMOs is broken and is denying UK farmers the choice to access this technology, which could deliver considerable benefits for them, their customers and the environment.”

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