Economist Magazine - Yet in Europe, opposition to GM food appears as strong as ever, despite increasingly strident scientific dissent. The European arm of Greenpeace, a green pressure group, still denounces the technology and gloats about a decline of over a tenth in cultivation of GM crops in Europe last year. Sir David King, a former scientific adviser to the British government, argues that the unjustified vilification of GM is leading to needless deaths. He thinks the delay in the introduction of flood-resistant GM rice, for example, has condemned many in the poor world to starvation.
* ISAAA expects the number of biotech farmers globally to reach 20 million or more in 40 countries on 200 million hectares within five in 2015. 1.5 billion hectares of crop land are in use today for all kinds of farming (not just biotech).
* in Nov, 2009, China issued biosafety certificates for biotech insect-resistant rice and phytase maize. (2-3 more years of field trials before full rollout)
* Bt rice has the potential to increase yields up to 8 percent, decrease pesticide use by 80 percent (17 kg/ha) and generate US$4 billion in benefits annually.
* China is also the second largest maize producer in the world, with about 100 million farmers growing 30 million hectares of the grain. Increasing prosperity in the country is creating an increased demand for animal protein, making maize a key resource. The improved phytase maize will allow China’s 500 million pigs and 13 billion chickens and other poultry to more easily digest phosphate, improving the animal’s growth and reducing the amount of the nutrient excreted. Currently, phosphate must be purchased and added to feed, and it contributes to environmental pollution.
* China is just one of 16 developing countries that grew biotech crops in 2009. Growth of biotech crops has been substantially higher in developing nations – 13 percent or 7 million hectares in 2009 compared to just 3 percent or 2 million hectares in industrialized countries. As a result, almost half (46 percent) of the global hectarage of biotech crops were planted in developing countries, where 13 million small farmers benefitted.
* the G8 recently approved US$20 billion over three years “to help farmers in the poorest nations improve food production and help the poor feed themselves.”
* 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.
* Other key highlights marking the beginning of the second wave of growth in 2009 include the approval of SmartStax, a novel biotech maize containing eight different genes for insect and herbicide resistance and planting in the United States and Canada of the first Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans – the first product of a new class of technology that allows more efficient, precise gene insertion to directly impact yields.
* China may be the first country to approve biotech wheat as early as 5 years from now. Traits such as disease resistance are well advanced while sprouting tolerance and enhanced quality traits are being field-tested
* The new target for the Chinese Government is to increase total grain production to 540 million tons by 2020 and to double Chinese farmers’ 2008 income by 2020. China move to crop biotechnology has been championed by Premier Wen Jiabao.
The Scale of Challenge
At the beginning of the 21st century, with a population of 6.1 billion in 2000 and headed for 9.2 billion by 2050, the challenge of yet again doubling food production in only 50 years has become a daunting task in itself. The situation is further exacerbated because now, we must also double food production sustainably by 2050 on approximately the same area of arable land (a notable exception is Brazil) using less resources, particularly, fossil fuel, water and nitrogen, at a time when we must also mitigate some of the enormous challenges associated with climate change. Furthermore, there is the critical and urgent humanitarian need to alleviate poverty, hunger and malnutrition which is afflicting more than 1 billion people for the first time in the history of the world. The most promising technological strategy at this time for increasing global food, feed and fiber productivity (kg per hectare) is to combine the best of the old and the best of the new, by integrating the best of conventional crop technology (adapted germplasm) and the best of crop biotechnology applications including novel traits.
* global grain reserves are at 75 days supply, but the recommended minimum is 100 days of reserves
Biotech crops can play an important role by contributing to food self-sufficiency/security and more affordable food through increasing supply (by increasing productivity per hectare) and coincidentally decreasing cost of production (by a reduced need for inputs, less ploughing and fewer pesticide applications) which in turn also requires less fossil fuels for tractors, thus mitigating some of the negative aspects associated with climate change. Of the economic gains of us$51.9 billion during the period 1996 to 2008, 49.6% were due to substantial yield gains, and 50.4% due to a reduction in production costs. In 2008, the total crop production gain globally for the 4 principal biotech crops (soybean, maize, cotton and canola) was 29.6 million metric tons, which would have required 10.5 million additional hectares had biotech crops not been deployed. The 29.6 million metric tons of increased crop production from biotech crops in 2008 comprised 17.1 million tons of maize, 10.1 million tons of soybean, 1.8 million tons of cotton lint and 0.6 million tons of canola. For the period 1996-2008 the production gain was 167.1 million tons, which (at 2008 average yields) would have required 62.6 million additional hectares had biotech crops not been deployed (Brookes and Barfoot, 2010, forthcoming). Thus, biotechnology has already made a contribution to higher productivity and lower costs of production of current biotech crops, and has enormous potential for the future when the staples of rice and wheat, as well as pro-poor food crops such as cassava will benefit from biotechnology.
The most recent survey of the global impact of biotech crops for the period 1996 to 2008 (Brookes and Barfoot 2010, forthcoming) estimates that the global net economic benefits to biotech crop farmers in 2008 alone was us$ 9.2 billion (us$4.7 billion for developing countries and us$4.5 billion for industrial countries). The accumulated benefits during the period 1996 to 2008 was us$51.9 billion with us$26.1 billion for developing and us$25.8 billion for industrial countries. These estimates include the very important benefits associated with the double cropping of biotech soybean in Argentina.
Slides and Tables on genetically modified crop report
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