WASHINGTON — Millions of farmers around the world continue to choose genetically modified (GM) crop varieties because of their environmental and socio-economic benefits and the important role they play in addressing food security, according to a recent study.
The report, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016, produced annually by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), says 18 million farmers in 26 countries grew biotech crops on 185.1 million hectares (457 million acres) in 2016.
“The United Nations warns that our food supply must double by 2050 to meet the world’s expected population growth to 9 billion people,” said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). “GM crops produce bigger yields on less land and help farmers and growers mitigate the environmental challenges of climate change.”
The report shows a 110-fold increase in adoption rate of GM globally in just 21 years of commercialization, proving biotechnology to be the fastest adopted crop technology in the world. Adoption has grown from 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) in 1996 to 185.1 million hectares (457 million acres) in 2016.
“Biotechnology also provides societal benefits to the 18 million farmers who plant GMO crops — especially to the 90 percent who farm in developing countries,” said Greenwood. “The report shows how biotechnology has helped alleviate hunger by increasing incomes for small farmers and their families, bringing improved financial stability to more than 65 million people.”
Quantifying the environmental benefits of biotechnology, the ISAAA report explains how the adoption of biotech crops has reduced CO2 emissions equal to removing approximately 12 million cars from the road annually; conserved biodiversity by removing 19.4 million hectares of land from agriculture production in 2015; and decreased the environmental impact with a 19 percent reduction in herbicide and insecticide use.
Among the report’s additional highlights: In 2016, 26 countries in total, including 19 developing and 7 industrial countries, grew biotech crops. Developing countries grew 54 percent of biotech crops, compared to 46 percent for industrial nations.
In 2016, the leading countries growing biotech crops continued to be represented by the U.S., Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India. Combined, these five countries planted 91 percent of the global biotech crop area.
Eight countries in Asia and the Pacific, including China and India, grew 18.6 million hectare of biotech crops in 2016; 7.2 million farmers in India grow biotech cotton. Four countries in Europe (Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia) grew more than 136,000 hectares of biotech maize in 2016, an increase of 17 percent from 2015, reflecting EU’s need for insect resistant maize.
Biotech crops have generated $167.8 billion in farm income gains since 1996.