A study released today by International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications reports a 13% increase in global biotech crop area, as 10.3 million farmers planted 102 million hectares (224 million acres) of biotech crops worldwide in 2006.
In an ISAAA teleconference, Dr. Clive James, chair of the ISAAA Board of Directors, related the growth of biotechnology in the 22 countries that grow biotech crops. James credits the U.S. with leading North American and global biotech growth. With 135 million acres, the U.S. leads all nations in biotech crop area, with Argentina and Brazil trailing far behind at 44.5 million and 28.4 million acres, respectively. Canada is fourth with 15 million acres.
For the first time this year, India surpassed China to lead Asia with 9.4 million hectares. C.D. Mayee, chairman of India's Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board and an ISAAA trustee, says Bt cotton has significantly boosted cotton yields in India, from 308 kg lint per hectare in 2001-02 to 450 kg link per hectare in 2005-06.
"In turn," he says, "the increase in yield from Bt cotton has been a major contributor to increased cotton exports from India which soared from 0.9 million bales in 2005 to 4.7 million bales in 2006, the highest ever recorded for India."
"Biotech sits at the nexus" of the expanding biofuels market, James says, because it can help to produce more fuel per acre. However, in promoting biotech crops for fuel versus for food and feed, "we have to be careful in food insecure countries," James says.
One of the greatest virtues of biotech crops is to reduce global poverty by assisting poor farmers in developing countries, James says. Ravinder Brar, a widowed mother who farms biotech cotton in India, spoke during the teleconference in order to relate how the adoption of biotech cotton has increased her yield and eased her workload.
"More than 90 percent or 9.3 million farmers growing biotech crops last year were small, resource-poor farmers from the developing world, allowing biotechnology to make a modest contribution to the alleviation of their poverty," James says. "Millions of small, resource-poor farmers will turn to the potential biotech crops offer in the next decade."