World GMO update


Useful summary on the expansion globally during 2006 of GMOs or biotech crops (as the Americans call them). While having a rough time of it here in Europe the Americans have pressed ahead elsewhere, concentrating on poor smallholding farmers in developing countries.

Some summary information;

1. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) just released its annual “brief” on growth of genetically engineered crops (“biotech crops”) worldwide, covering 2006. ISAAA is a not-for-profit organization created in the 1990s with the intention of transferring and delivering “appropriate biotechnology applications” to developing countries in the name of alleviating poverty, increasing crop production and income generation for resource-poor farmers while protecting the environment and promoting sustainable agricultural development. Donors include aid agencies such as USAID, DANIDA, GTZ and SIDA, private foundations such as the McKnight and Rockefeller Foundations, corporations such as Bayer CropScience, Cargill, Monsanto, Nestle, Novartis, Pioneer Hi-Bred and Syngenta, and he UN Environment Programme (UNEP). ISAAA’s Americas Center is located at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

In other words this organisation is serving as a front for biotech companies to expand their technology throughout the developing world. No doubt the same companies who practise seed control over farmers in these developing countries.

2. Doing the business in 2006;

Total Global Value of Biotech/GMO Crops 2006 = $6.15 billion

of which; soyabean $2.68 billion (44%)
maize $2.39 billion (39%)
cotton $0.87 billion (14%)
canola $0.21 billion ( 3%)

3. Where;
While the US and India were first and second in terms of greatest new acreage planted with biotech crops, Brazil was third (with 2.1 million new hectares in 2006) and Argentina tied for fourth with South Africa (at 0.9 million new hectares apiece).

Of the 10.3 million farmers, 90% were small, resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
Since 1996 51 countries have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crop imports for food and feed use and for deliberate release into the environment. Among the list of top approvers, only one is from LAC (Mexico). A total 539 approvals have been granted for 107 events for 21 crops. Genetically engineered maize is the most approved event (35), followed by cotton (19), canola (14) and soybean (7).

4. Claimed benefits;
Since the start of commercialization of biotech crops in 1996, herbicide tolerance has been the dominant trait, at 68% of global biotech crops (principally soybean, maize, canola, cotton and alfalfa), followed by insect resistance (19%, mostly Bt crops) and stacked genes (13%) for the two traits. Stacked-trait products is the fastest-growing category.

Interestingly biotech companies are also making the case for helping reduce agriculture’s contribution to global climate change. See more on this here. The USDA’s (US Dept Agriculture’s) Foreign Agricultural Service is involved with spreading the technology worldwide.

This entry was posted in Development, Economics, Food & Agriculture, Politics & Policy initiatives, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to World GMO update

  1. Keith R says:

    Hi. Thanks for mentioning my post and leaving a comment on my blog. I’ve been a reader (and linker — hint hint. LOL) of The Coffee House for months. I very much support the central premise of greater discussion and debate.

    I would not be so quick to label it as the just US pushing its technology — evidently the Japanese, UK and Swiss development cooperation agencies also support it. And let’s recall that one of the biggest biotech crop firms is Syngenta, the result of a merger of elements of EUROPEAN firms — Astra (Sweden), Zeneca (UK) and Novartis (Switzerland), and the CEO is British. Bayer, also a biotech player, is a German firm.

    I also am not so sure ISAAA is a “front for biotech companies” (as you call them), but am open to (and interested in) hearing evidence of that. “True believers in biotech” and its potential, yes, unquestionably. But I have met plenty of well-meaning people who are strong believers in modern biotech who are not fronts or lackeys of biotech companies per se. Part of my hesitation is the participation in ISAAA of such entities as DANIDA and SIDA, who in the past often have been accused of working against corporate interests rather than serving as the allies and supporters of corporate “fronts.” I would also note that another ISAAA supporter, the Rockefeller Foundation, in recent years has been a primary funder of international projects exploring alternatives to the current biotech patent system that would favor the poor farmer.

    Well, hope you won’t be shy about returning to The Temas Blog often and joining in the discussion there too.

    Best Regards,

  2. Keith R says:

    Oh, forgot to mention my agreement with you that it is interesting that ISAAA tries so hard to tie in support for biotech crops with two of the biggest issues of the day, global climate change and biofuel production. They also make alot of assertions about biotech helping to bring developnig country farmers out of poverty, but I’ve seen no hard figures that make that case convincingly.


  3. matt says:

    Hi Keith,

    Great to hear from you. How strange I’ve only noticed a link back to your blog today.

    Yes, take your point regards European biotech companies. They have Blair’s backing in the UK. A few years back the whole country was consumed with the GMO debate. Well, it appeared that way because most of the papers and a certain BBC radio station (not to mention NGOs) ran constant campaigns against GMOs. Helping this along was a strong grassroots campaign for organic farming and produce.

    The promotion of GMOs is a business transaction after all. Talking poverty is a selling point to the corporates but, these are the same companies that have never hesitated in keeping poor farmers tied into debt for seeds (that they control), insecticides and fertilizers. As they say in the UK, …. it’s all a load of bollocks!!


Comments are closed.