A new report finds that more than 18 million farmers in 27 countries planted biotech crops in 2013, representing a 3% increase from 2012.
The report, issued by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, also noted that 2013 marked the first-ever commercial plantings of drought-tolerant biotech maize in the U.S.
"Accumulated hectarage of biotech crops planted worldwide to-date stands at 1.6 billion hectares or 150% of the total landmass of China," said Clive James, report author and ISAAA Founder and Chairman Emeritus. "Each of the top ten countries planting biotech crops during 2013 planted more than one million hectares, providing a broad foundation for future growth."
According to the report, 175.2 million hectares of biotech crops were grown in 2013; the United States continues to lead global biotech crop plantings at 70.1 million hectares, or 40% of total global hectares. One hectare represents about 2.47 acres.
Of the global plantings, about 90%, or 16.5 million, of farmers planting biotech crops are small and resource-poor. Of the countries planting biotech crops, eight are industrial countries and 19 are developing countries.
For the second year, developing countries planted more hectares of biotech crops than industrialized countries, "representing confidence and trust of millions of risk-adverse farmers around the world that have experienced the benefits of these crops," ISAA said.
Nearly 100% of farmers who try biotech crops continue to plant them year after year, the report notes.
Two new drought-tolerant crops
In the United States, approximately 2,000 farmers in the Corn Belt planted about 50,000 hectares of the first biotech drought-tolerant maize. And Indonesia in 2013 developed and approved planting of the world's first drought-tolerant sugarcane – the first biotech sugarcane to be approved globally. The country plans to commercialize it for planting in 2014.
"Biotech crops are demonstrating their global value as a tool for resource poor farmers who face decreased water supplies and increased weed and pest pressures – and the effects of climate change will only continue to expand the need for this technology," James noted.