Brussels, 12 Jan 2006
Five EU Member States - Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, and the Czech Republic - were among the countries that contributed to a 22 million acre increase in the global cultivation of biotech crops in 2005, according to a new report.
The study 'Global status of commercialized biotech/GM crops 2005' was carried out by Clive James, chairman and founder of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), an organisation that says it aims to transfer biotech crops to farmers in developing countries in order to contribute to poverty alleviation. 'Since initial commercialization in 1996, global planted area of biotech crops has soared by more than fifty-fold from 4.2 million acres in six countries to 222 million acres in 21 countries in 2005,' says the report. The total number of farmers growing biotech crops now stands at 8.5 million.
In 2005 the Czech Republic planted Bt Maize for the first time, notes the report, while France and Portugal resumed growing biotech maize after gaps of four and five years respectively. Dr James believes that these findings 'could signal an important trend in the EU'. Spain is the only EU country that achieved 'mega-country' status in 2005 by planting at least 125,000 acres of genetically modified (GM) plants, while Romania was the only other European country to fall into this category.
'Farmers from the United States to Iran, and five EU countries demonstrate a trust and confidence in biotech crops, as indicated by the unprecedented high adoption rate of these crops,' said Dr James. 'The continued expansion of countries growing biotech crops also bears witness to the substantial economical, environmental and social benefits associated with these crops.'
Worldwide, herbicide-tolerant soybeans are the most widely cultivated biotech trait, accounting for 60 per cent of the total global area. Notably, says the report, in 2005 Iran grew its first crop of biotech rice, the first country in the world to do so. Dr James says that he is 'cautiously optimistic' that the growth in cultivation of biotech crops experienced in the first decade of commercialisation will continue and indeed increase in the second decade. 'The number of countries and farmers growing biotech crops is expected to grow, particularly in developing countries, while second-generation input and output traits are expected to become available,' he said, explaining the reasons for his optimism.
Other potential future growth factors cited in the report are China's expected adoption of biotech rice, the introduction of more nutritional biotech food and feed products, and the introduction of novel biotech crops for the more sustainable and affordable production of biotech fuels.