* U.S. leads world with most acres planted to biotech crops
* Brazil farmers planted 30.3 mln hectares GMO crops in 2011
* India, Canada planted more than 10 mln hectares
* Global value of biotech seed $13.2 billion in 2011
By Carey Gillam
Feb 7 Farmers in developing nations will
sow more biotech crops than those in the industrialized world
for the first time this year, with Brazil leading the charge,
according to a report issued on Tuesday that showed
steady growth in the use of genetically modified seeds.
Globally, the area planted with biotech crops rose 8 percent
last year to a record 160 million hectares, or 395 million
acres, slowing slightly from a 10 percent rise in 2010, said the
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech
Applications (ISAAA) in its annual report on biotech seed use.
Use in developing nations continued to grow faster than in
the United States, still the biggest market by a wide margin.
GMO area in developing countries rose by 11 percent or 8.2
million hectares. Growth in the United States, which grows about
43 percent of the world's GMO crops, slowed to 3 percent.
(A full copy of the report can be found here:
"Developing countries grew close to 50 percent (49.875
percent) of global biotech crops in 2011 and for the first time
are expected to exceed industrial countries' hectarage in 2012,"
ISAAA said in the report.
"This is contrary to the prediction of critics who, prior to
the commercialization of the technology in 1996, prematurely
declared that biotech crops were only for industrial countries
and would never be accepted and adopted by developing
Biotech crops were planted by 16.7 million farmers in 29
countries, up from 15.4 million farmers in the same number of
countries in 2010, according to the ISAAA.
"I was a little surprised that the growth was as strong as
it is," said Clive James, chairman of the ISAAA board of
directors. "Millions of farmers around the world in both
industrial and developing countries are adopting the
ISAAA is a not-for-profit organization aimed at promoting
crop biotechnology applications, which are the subject of
controversy, particularly in Europe, where they are largely
Critics say there is evidence of human health dangers and
environmental problems connected to genetically modified crops,
though the technology companies that develop them and supporters
say they are proven safe.
U.S. farmers have embraced the technology, and most of the
U.S. corn and soybeans are genetically altered. Corporate
biotech leaders, such as Monsanto, have crafted crops
that tolerate dousings of herbicides, and crops that are
designed to resist pests, effectively creating their own
According to the ISAAA, U.S. farmers planted 69 million
hectares, or 170.43 million acres, with biotech crops in 2011;
followed by Brazil with 30.3 million hectares, (75 million
acres) and Argentina with 23.7 million hectares (59 million
While the United States boasts biotech corn, soybeans,
cotton, canola, sugarbeet, alfalfa, papaya and squash, in Latin
America biotech crops are so far limited to soybeans, corn and
India had 10.6 million hectares (26.2 million acres) planted
to cotton in 2011 and Canada had 10.4 million hectares (25.7
million acres) planted to canola, corn, soybeans and sugarbeet.
All other countries had less than half that amount, with
China having the next-largest planting area for biotech crops
with 3.9 million hectares (9.6 million acres) planted in 2011.
While biotech crops remain controversial in Europe, six
European Union countries -- Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic,
Poland, Slovakia and Romania -- planted 114,490 hectares of
biotech corn in 2011, up more than 25 percent over 2010.
Still, critics noted significant setbacks for biotech crops
last year, notably a decision by the world's biggest chemical
company, BASF, to halt development and
commercialization of genetically modified crops in Europe due to
the lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of the
Similarly, Monsanto said it would not sell its genetically
modified maize in France in 2012 and beyond.
"The evidence against genetically modified crops continues
to grow," said Mute Schimpf, a Friends of the Earth Europe
spokesman. "Communities and nature are paying the price of the
resulting pollution. The biotech system of farming is a dead-end
and will fail to meet the needs of the future."
Biotech crops are accepted for import for food and feed use
and for release into the environment in 60 countries, including
major food-importing countries such as Japan that do not plant
biotech crops, the ISAAA said.
The global value of biotech seed alone was $13.2 billion in
2011, with the end product of commercial grain from biotech
maize, soybean grain and cotton valued at $160 billion or more
per year, according to the ISAAA.