Biotech Crops Continue to Help Meet the Challenges of Increased Population and Climate Change
TOKYO, JAPAN-August 22, 2019) A total of 70 countries adopted biotech crops
through cultivation and importation in 2018, the 23rd year of continuous
biotech crop adoption, according to the Global Status of Commercialized
Biotech/GM Crops in 2018 (ISAAA Brief 54) released by the International
Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) today.
Twenty-six countries (21 developing and 5 industrialized countries) planted
191.7 million hectares of biotech crops, which added 1.9 million hectares to
the record of plantings in 2017. The continuous adoption of biotech crops by
farmers worldwide indicate that biotech crops continue to help meet global
challenges of hunger, malnutrition, and climate change.
In 2018, it was reported in the United Nation's State of Food Security and
Nutrition in the World that hunger is growing year after year for three
consecutive years, and at the levels equivalent to the records a decade ago.
Furthermore, the 2017 Global Report on Food Crises revealed that hunger and
malnutrition continue to rise, with around 108 million individuals in 48
countries at risk or in severe food insecurity. Biotech crops, developed
with improved traits such as increased yield, more resistance to pests,
improved nutrition, among others, are undeniably necessary to address these
global challenges affecting the lives of so many families globally.
"GM technology has contributed to all facets of food security. By increasing
yields and reducing losses, it contributed to food availability for more
families. By enabling farmers to improve their processes and join the modern
supply chain, it improved physical access to food. Through raising farmer
and rural incomes, it improved economic access to food. Through rigorous
standards of food safety and hygiene programs, it contributed to better food
utilization," said Dr. Paul S. Teng, ISAAA Board Chair. "While agricultural
biotechnology is not the only key in enhancing global food security, it is
an important scientific tool in the multi-disciplinary toolkit."
Biotech crop plantings have increased ~113-fold since 1996, with an
accumulated area of 2.5 billion hectares, showing that biotechnology is the
fastest adopted crop technology in the world. In countries with long years
of high adoption, particularly the USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and
India, adoption rates of major crops are at levels close to 100%, indicating
that farmers favor this crop technology over the conventional varieties.
More farmers' and consumers' needs, more diverse biotech crops with various
traits became available in the market in 2018. These biotech crops include
potatoes with non-bruising, non-browning, reduced acrylamide and late blight
resistant traits; insect resistant and drought tolerant sugarcane;
non-browning apples; and high oleic acid canola and safflower.
The ISAAA report also highlighted the following key findings:
* The top 5 countries with the largest area of biotech crops planted
(USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and India) collectively occupied 91% of the
global biotech crop area.
* Biotech soybeans reached the highest adoption worldwide, covering
50% of the global biotech crop area.
* The area of biotech crops with stacked traits continued to increase
and occupied 42% of the global biotech area.
* Farmers in 10 Latin American countries planted 79.4 million hectares
of biotech crops.
* Nine countries in Asia and the Pacific planted 19.13 million
hectares of biotech crops.
* In Asia, Indonesia planted for the first time a drought tolerant
sugarcane developed through a public (University of Jember) and private
(Ajinomoto Ltd.) partnership.
* The Kingdom of eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) joined South Africa and
Sudan in planting biotech crops in Africa, with the introduction of IR
cotton. Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Malawi granted approvals for planting
IR cotton opening Africa to biotech crop adoption.
* In Europe, Spain and Portugal continued to adopt biotech maize to
control European corn borer.
* More area planted to biotech crops for farmer and consumer needs
included potatoes with non-bruising, non-browning, reduced acrylamide and
late blight resistant traits; non-browning apples; insect resistant
eggplant; and low lignin alfalfa, among others.
* New crops and trait combinations in farmer fields include insect
resistant and drought tolerant sugarcane; high oleic acid canola and
* Various food, feed and processing approvals for Golden Rice, Bt
rice, herbicide tolerant cotton, low gossypol cotton, among others.
* Cultivation approvals for planting in 2019 include new generation
herbicide tolerant cotton and soybean, low gossypol cotton, RR and low
lignin alfalfa, omega-3 canola, and IR cowpea, among others.
With the continuously increasing adoption of biotech crops worldwide,
farmers are at the forefront of reaping numerous benefits. "We were fed up
with weeding and spraying pesticides to control bollworms and weeds. When
the technology was introduced, we rapidly picked it up," said Frans Mallela,
a farmer from Limpopo Province, South Africa. Le Thanh Hai, one of the early
adopters of biotech maize in Vinh Phuc Province, Vietnam, said that biotech
maize has helped revive maize farming in their province and stressed that
many farmers now grow biotech maize because of its benefits. Rosalie
Ellasus, a farmer from Pangasinan, Philippines, said that she adopted Bt
maize because she gained more yield with less production cost, compared to
conventional maize varieties. "There was not even a trace of pests
considering that we did not apply insecticide. Furthermore, we no longer
need to visit our maize field every day and this gives us peace of mind,"
ISAAA is a not-for-profit international organization that shares the
benefits of crop biotechnology to various stakeholders, particularly
resource-poor farmers in developing countries, through knowledge sharing
initiatives and the transfer and delivery of proprietary biotechnology
applications. ISAAA's global knowledge sharing network and partnerships in
the research and development continuum, provide a powerful combination of
science-based information and appropriate technology to those who need to
make informed decisions about their acceptance and use. ISAAA releases the
annual global biotech crop adoption report and provides information on
approved GM crop events through the GM Approval Database.
The Executive Summary is downloadable for free from