* U.S. farmers still lead world in planting GMO crops
* Brazil driver of fast biotech crop growth
* Biotech corn, soy favored
* Record 170.3 million hectares grown globally
By Carey Gillam
Feb 19 Developing countries accounted for the
first time last year for more than half the global biotech crop
area, though the United States remains the primary nation making
use of genetically altered crops, according to an industry
"The developments we will see over the next five years will
be in favor of developing countries. That is where the mouths
are that we have to feed," said Clive James, chairman of the
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech
Applications (ISAAA), which issued the report.
ISAAA is a pro-biotech industry organization and annually
releases a survey of biotech crop plantings around the world.
Monsanto Co., DuPont, Syngenta and
other global chemical and seed companies have over the last
decade and a half rolled out a variety of genetic traits for
agricultural seeds. The most popular genetically modified (GM)
traits alter crops like corn, soybeans and cotton so that they
can be sprayed with weed killer and still thrive, or resist
Many new types of biotech crops have "stacked traits," or
multiple enhancements. The seeds are generally much more costly
than conventional seeds, but are marketed as helping boost
Critics say biotech crops lead to increased pesticide use
and environmental damage and have not been proven safe for human
and animal consumption, but backers say the crops are no
different to normal crops.
ISAAA's report issued Tuesday showed a record 170.3 million
hectares of biotech crops were grown around the world last year,
up 10.3 million hectares from 2011.
The number of farmers using biotech crops also rose to 17.3
million, up 600,000 from 2011, the report said.
And for the first time, thanks to Brazil's appetite for
biotech corn and soybeans, developing countries accounted for
more than half of the global biotech crop area, 52 percent,
while industrial countries accounted for 48 percent.
In Brazil, biotech crops were planted on 36.6 million
hectares in 2012, up 6.3 million hectares from 2011, and
approximately 21 percent of the global total.
U.S. farmers continued to be the chief users of biotech
crops, however, planting 69.5 million hectares in 2012, up from
69 million in 2011, and roughly 41 percent of the global total.
Argentina planted 23.9 million hectares, or 14 percent of
the global total area last year, and Canada had 11.6 million
hectares planted to biotech crops, or 7 percent of the global
SUDAN TRIES BIOTECH CROPS
Sudan planted biotech crops for the first time last year,
sowing about 20,000 hectares of biotech Bt cotton, making it the
fourth country in Africa, after South Africa, Burkina Faso and
Egypt, to commercialize a biotech crop.
Cuba also planted biotech crops for the first time as
farmers there seeded 3,000 hectares of hybrid biotech maize.
Not all countries where farmers have been trying biotech
crops were expanding their use. Colombia grew 28,172 hectares of
biotech cotton in 2012, down from 49,333 hectares in 2011.
Also, Romania, which planted more than 7,000 hectares of Bt
cotton in 2008, planted only 217 hectares in 2012. Prior to its
entrance into the European Union, Romania planted more than
100,000 hectares of biotech crops, the report said.
And Egypt planted 1,000 hectares of BT maize in 2012, down
from 2,800 hectares in 2011.
The European Union continued to be a difficult market for
biotech crop expansion efforts. Though five EU countries planted
Monsanto's biotech maize in 2012, BASF ceased
commercial operations for biotech crops in the EU last year
citing market resistance.
"The EU region is particularly difficult to predict because
the issues are not related to science and technology
considerations but are of a political nature and influenced by
ideological views of activist groups," the ISAAA report states.
The three-year outlook for biotech crops globally was
"cautiously optimistic", the report said. Biotech sugarcane is
seen as likely to be available in the near term and enhanced
Vitamin A rice, transfat-free soybeans and omega-3 rich soybeans
are seen becoming prevalent, ISAAA said. The world's first
biotech wheat is also expected by 2020, the group said.