Friday, January 19, 2007

GM Crops Are Growing Up

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications ("ISAAA"), a nongovernmental organisation that promotes genetically modified ("GM") crop adoption in the developing world, has just reported that more than ten million farmers grew GM crops occupying more than 100 million hectares worldwide by the end 2006. As the ISAAA enthusiastically states in its new report,

In 2006, the first year of the second decade of commercialization of biotech crops 2006-2015, the global area of biotech crops continued to climb for the tenth consecutive year at a sustained double-digit growth rate of 13%, or 12 million hectares (30 million acres), reaching 102 million hectares (252 million acres). This is a historical landmark in that it is the first time for more than 100 million hectares of biotech crops to be grown in any one year.

Among the surprises in the ISAAA's report is the fact that India - often viewed as a prime locus of anti-GM crop sentiment - increased its GM crop hectareage more swiftly than any other country in 2006. Worldwide, GM crops have increased the area of farmland they occupy by sixty times over the last decade. ISAAA claims this makes GM crops the most rapidly adopted technology in history.

Beyond the increase in popularity of GM crops, ISAAA emphasizes their alleged environmental benefits. For example, from 1996 to 2006,

224,300 MT of active ingredient, which is equivalent to a 15% reduction in the associated environmental impact of pesticide use on these crops, as measured by the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) - a composite measure based on the various factors contributing to the net environmental impact of an individual active ingredient.

Love them or loath them, GM crops are becoming mainstream. The adoption rate of GM soybean and cotton in the United States is 80%, with other crops close behind. Hectareage devoted to GM crops in India increased by almost 200% in the last year alone. Bon appétit!