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Biotech crops can bring prosperity to small farmers
Feb '10
Last year, ISAAA predicted biotech crops were poised for a new wave of growth. Substantial gains have already been made in 2009 that are starting to bring that prediction to fruition. With 14 years of regulatory experience, growth can be accelerated moving forward.

2009 Key Highlights

In 2009, 14 million farmers planted 134 million hectares (330 million acres) of biotech crops in 25 countries, up from 13.3 million farmers and 125 million hectares (7 percent) in 2008. Notably, in 2009, 13 of the 14 million farmers, or 90 percent, were small and resource-poor farmers from developing countries.

Trait hectares or "virtual hectares" reached 180 million hectares, up 14 million hectares from 2008. Eight of the 11 countries planting crops with stacked traits were developing nations.

Brazil surpassed Argentina as the second largest grower of biotech crops globally. Impressive growth of 5.6 million hectares to 21.4 million hectares, up 35 percent from 2008, was the highest absolute growth for any country in 2009.

Burkina Faso's biotech cotton area soared from 8,500 hectares to a substantial 115,000 hectares, or from 2 percent to 29 percent of the country's total cotton area – the largest percentage growth on record at 1,350 percent. Progress continued in the rest of Africa with a significant 17 percent increase in South Africa to reach 2.1 million hectares and a 15 percent increase in Egypt to total 1,000 hectares of Bt maize.

Bt cotton in India has revolutionized cotton production in the country with 5.6 million farmers planting 8.4 million hectares in 2009, equivalent to a record 87 percent adoption rate. India gained US$1.8 billion from Bt cotton in 2008 alone and reduced insecticide use by half.

Costa Rica reported biotech crops for the first time in 2009, exclusively for the seed export market, while Japan began commercialization of a biotech blue rose.

Six European countries planted 94,750 hectares of biotech crops in 2009, down from seven countries and 107,719 hectares in 2008, as Germany discontinued its planting. Spain planted 80 percent of all the Bt maize in the EU in 2009 and maintained its record adoption rate of 22 percent from the previous year.

The top eight countries, each growing more than 1 million hectares, were: United States (64.0 million ha.), Brazil (21.4 million ha.), Argentina (21.3 million ha.), India (8.4 million ha.), Canada (8.2 million ha.), China (3.7 million ha.), Paraguay (2.2 million ha.), and South Africa (2.1 million ha.). The remaining countries included: Uruguay, Bolivia, Philippines, Australia, Burkina Faso, Spain, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Czech Republic, Portugal, Romania, Poland, Costa Rica, Egypt and Slovakia.

Growth Drivers for Second Wave of Adoption

Biotech rice and the drought tolerant trait have been identified as the two most important drivers globally for future biotech crop adoption. China's biosafety clearance of insect-resistant rice is likely to spur faster development of biotech rice and other biotech crops in other developing countries. Meanwhile drought tolerant maize is expected to be deployed in the United States in 2012 and sub-Saharan Africa in 2017.

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