International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
October 18, 2001
The global area of transgenic crops, often referred to as genetically modified or GM crops, is likely to reach 50 million hectares, or 125 million acres, at the end of 2001. Preliminary information from a global survey conducted by Dr Clive James, Chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), indicates that this is more than a 10 % year-on-year growth compared with 2000. Despite the on-going debate on GM crops, particularly in countries of the European Union, millions of large and small farmers in both industrial and developing countries continue to increase their plantings of GM crops.
Since 1996, when the first commercial GM crops were grown, the global GM crop area has increased 30 fold, an unprecedented increase, reflecting grower satisfaction due to the significant and multiple benefits of GM crops. These benefits include:
* more sustainable and resource-efficient crop management practices that require less fuel, conserve vital soil moisture and control erosion
* less dependency on conventional pesticides, that can be a health hazard to resource-poor small farmers in developing countries applying pesticides with hand sprayers, and also result in environmental residues
* safer food and feed from products, such as pest-resistant Bt maize which contains less mycotoxin than conventional maize
* Collectively, these benefits offer growers and society more efficient and higher crop productivity that help contribute to a more sustainable agriculture and to the formidable challenge of ensuring global food, feed and fiber security in the future.
In the early 1990s, many critics of biotechnology were skeptical that GM crops could deliver improved products and make an impact in the near-term at the farm level. There was even more doubt about the appropriateness of GM crops for countries of the developing world. The experience of more than 15 countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, South Africa and the USA during the last six years, 1996 to 2001, has demonstrated that the early promises of GM crops are meeting expectations in both industrial and developing countries. These countries have grown a cumulative total of 175 million hectares (over 400 million acres) of GM crops. Legions of discerning farmers around the world, who have to practice risk aversion daily in order to survive, have all made independent decisions to increase their GM crop areas by almost 30-fold. The collective judgment of millions of farmers speaks volumes of the confidence and trust they have placed in GM crops that can make a vital contribution to global food, feed, and fiber security.
Governments, supported by the global scientific and international development community, must ensure continued safe and effective testing and introduction of GM crops and implement regulatory programs that inspire public confidence. Leadership at the international level must be exerted by the international scientific community and development institutions to stimulate discussion and to share knowledge on GM crops with society. The latter must be well informed and engaged in a dialogue about the impact of the technology on the environment, food safety, sustainability and global food security. v Societies in food surplus countries must ensure that access to GM crops is not denied or delayed to developing countries seeking to access the new technologies in their quest for food security. The most compelling case for biotechnology, particularly GM crops, is its potential vital contribution to global food security and the alleviation of hunger in the Third World. We must ensure that society will continue to benefit from the vital contribution that plant breeding offers, using both conventional and biotechnology tools. Improved crop varieties are, and will continue to be the most cost effective, environmentally safe, and sustainable way to help ensure global food security in the future.
ISAAA will release the 2001 Global Review of GM Crops when it is completed later this year. Copies will be available from ISAAA's Center in SouthEast Asia.
Please send questions, suggestions, and comments, to ISAAA SEAsiaCenter, c/o IRRI DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines. Phone: +63 2 8450563; Fax: 845 0606; Telefax: +63 495367216; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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Last Updated on 10/19/01