A record 181.5 million hectares (448 million acres) of biotech crops were grown globally in 2014, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications said in its annual report released last month.
Twenty-eight countries grow biotech crops, the report said – 20 developing and eight industrial. The countries where biotech crops are produced represent more than 60% of the world's population, the report said.
"The accumulated hectarage of biotech crops grown in 1996 to 2014 equals, roughly, 80% more than the total land mass of China," said Clive James, ISAAA Founder and report author.
He said global hectarage has increased more than 100-fold since the first plantings of biotech crops. Since 1996, more than 10 food and fiber biotech crops have been approved and commercialized around the world.
According to the report, the United States continues to lead production at 73.1 million hectares. Up 3 million hectares – a growth rate of 4% – from 2013, the United States recorded the highest year-over-year increase, surpassing Brazil, which has recorded the highest annual increase for the past five years, the report said.
A milestone for the U.S. in 2014 was the introduction of the Innate GM potato, which decreases production of acrylamide, a potential carcinogen, when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures. It also increases consumer satisfaction while precluding up to 40% yield loss as the potato will not discolor when peeled and has fewer bruising spots, the report said.
For developing countries, China and India lead with 3.9 million hectares of biotech crops and 11.6 million hectares planted in 2014, respectively.
The adoption rate of biotech cotton in China increased from 90 to 93% in 2014, while virus resistant papaya plantings increased approximately 50%. The latest economic data available indicates farmers in the country have gained US$16.2 billion since the introduction of biotech in 1996, the report said.
Developing countries Vietnam and Indonesia granted approval for commercialization of biotech crops to begin in 2015. This includes several hybrids of biotech maize for importing and planting in Vietnam and drought tolerant sugarcane for planting as a food crop in Indonesia.
Related: Top 10 Facts About Biotech Crops
Growth also continues in Africa, where South Africa ranks as the leading developing country with 2.7 million hectares of biotech crops cultivated in 2014.
In Latin America, Brazil ranked second, behind only the United States, for biotech crops planted in 2014. At 42.2 million hectares, this represents an increase of 5% from 2013.
Editor's note: 1 hectare equals roughly 2.47 acres.
Read more about the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops report on the ISAAA blog.