Commercialized GM crops on the increase around the world

A new report, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2018, shows that in 2018, 26 countries (21 developing and 5 developed countries) planted nearly 475 million acres of GM crops, an increase of 4.7 million acres from the record planting of 2017. With implications around commodity acceptance and global trade flows, it’s important to understand how countries around the world are adopting, planting, importing and exporting GM crops.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) annual report, released this week, highlights the adoption and use of genetically modified (GM) crops around the world.

The ISAAA report also notes a few global trends around the adoption of biotechnology:

  • Record adoption: There has been a 113-fold increase in the planting of GM crops, since their initial introduction in 1996, with accumulated area of these crops now at 6.3 billion acres. This adoption rate makes biotechnology the fastest adopted crop technology in the world.
  • Countries continue adoption: A total of 70 countries have adopted GM crops – 26 countries planted, and an additional 44 countries imported, these crops. The 475 million acres of GM crops were grown by 26 countries—21 developing and 5 developed countries. The developing countries grew 54 percent of the global biotech crop area, compared to 46 percent for developed countries. An additional 44 countries (including the 26 countries that make up the European Union) imported biotech crops for food, feed and processing.
  • More types of crops adopted: Biotechnology has expanded beyond the “big four” crops (corn, soybeans, cotton and canola) to give more choices for many of the world’s consumers and food producers. These newer GM crops include alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, squash, eggplant, potatoes and apples, all of which are now in the market. In addition to the non-bruising, non-browning Innate® potatoes and the non-browning Arctic® apples now in the United States, Brazil planted the first insect resistant sugarcane; Indonesia planted the first drought tolerant sugarcane; and Australia planted the first high oleic acid safflower for research and seed propagation. In addition, the public sector around the world conducted research on crops ranging from rice, bananas, potatoes and wheat to chickpeas, pigeon peas and mustard, with various economically important and nutrition quality traits beneficial to food producers and consumers in developing countries.

With more crops and new traits being added, these changes in global adoption and adoption rates will likely continue.

Get more information and purchase the full ISAAA report

Author Megan Provost is vice president of policy and programs for Farm Foundation. She brings together stakeholders in the food and agriculture industries to engage in informed dialogue on timely food, agricultural and rural policy issues.

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