Global GM crop area keeps growing

Chart showing global are of biotech crops between 1996 and 2004

The Gene Scene - GMOs and gene technology in Australia by Paula Fitzgerald, Agrifood Awareness Australia Limited

Near-record growth has occurred in the uptake of genetically modified (GM) crops in the past year, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), which releases the figures on the global GM crop area each January.

In 2004, there were 81 million hectares of GM crops grown around the world, up 20 percent from the 67.7 million hectares grown in 2003 - and grown by 8.25 million farmers in 17 countries. This represents a 47-fold increase since the introduction of GM crops in 1996, as indicated in the graph.

The countries accounting for the majority of the global GM crop area are the US (59 percent), Argentina (20 percent), Canada (six percent), Brazil (six percent) and China (five percent).

Other countries growing more than 50,000 hectares of GM crops include Paraguay, India, South Africa, Mexico, Spain, Philippines, Uruguay, Australia and Romania.

Germany, Honduras and Colombia also grew small areas of GM crops. Australia produces insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant GM cotton.

The dominant crops continue to be soybean (representing 60 percent of the global GM crop area), corn (23 percent), cotton (11 percent) and canola (six percent). The crops express herbicide tolerance, insect resistance or a combination of both.

Future predictions in the report are that China may soon approve the first commercial GM rice, and up to 15 million farmers will grow GM crops in up to 30 countries by the end of the decade.

For more information: www.isaaa.org