Wednesday, March 26, 2014

ISAAA Network Meets in Hanoi

Members of the ISAAA network from 15 countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa gathered together for an annual meeting at Hilton Garden Inn in Hanoi, Vietnam on March 18-19, 2014. Thirty-eight members of the network attended the meeting to evaluate and discuss discuss their knowledge sharing initiatives on biotechnology.

In his welcome message to the group, AgBiotech Vietnam Director Mr. Le Van Tien acknowledged ISAAA as the leading organization sharing knowledge on biotechnology, while Vietnam Institute of Agricultural Genetics Director General Dr. Le Huy Ham said that it is a great experience that representatives of Biotechnology Information Centers (BICs) from different parts of the globe convene to strategize on how facts on biotechnology will move forward to the stakeholders. He added that efforts of the BICs will all lead to a greater impact for the future, especially for Vietnam where food security is at risk due to shortage of land, increasing population, and climate change. 

ISAAA Chair Dr. Paul S. Teng facilitated a discussion to synergize the efforts of ISAAA and the BICs to achieve individual and institutional targets. Highlights of research on farmer adoption in Asia, science communication among scientists and academics in Asia, and biotech approvals were also shared with the team. Popular techniques in disseminating information were also discussed during the hands-on workshops on videography and infographics. 

For more information about ISAAA, the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology and Biotech Information Centers, visit the website at:, or follow ISAAA on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2013 Seminars in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Philippines

A month after the international launch of ISAAA's 2013 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in Beijing, 10 countries in Asia have held their respective launches and media seminars. ISAAA's monitoring of the tri-media shows that one month after the international launch, Brief 46 has been mentioned in 1,933 news articles and 1,777 social media posts in 77 countries with a total impression data of 2,147,275,067.

Our previous blog posts discussed the country launches in China, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar. The following are summaries of the events in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and the Philippines.


In Bangladesh, the seminar/launch for ISAAA Brief 46 was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on February 26. The event was highlighted by the keynote speech of Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury. Minister Chowdhury said that "Being an overpopulated country, we will not hesitate in using biotechnology if it is proven to be useful and safe for human, animal and for the environment." She urged scientists to develop new crop varieties through frontier research using biotechnology to combat the environmental hazards like salinity, drought, submergence, and cold.

Bangladesh Biotechnology Information Centre (BdBIC) and ISAAA, in collaboration with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) organized the seminar which was attended by around 350 policy planners, academicians, researchers, extension officers, research students, and journalists.

Dr. James (third from left) is joined by Minister Chowdhury during the launch of Brief 46 in Dhaka.


The Jakarta, Indonesia seminar was held on February 28, and was attended by 128 people. Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan of Malaysia BIC joined Dr. Clive James and Dr. Randy Hautea by giving a presentation "Communicating Agri-biotech: Scientific Accuracy vs Popularized Myths." Two interviews for release on television were conducted featuring Dr. Clive James.

Drs. James and Hautea was joined by Dr. Arujanan during the launch in Jakarta.


A media conference was held on March 6, 2014 at Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati City, with more than 60 people in attendance, composed of multi-media journalists, members of the academe, government agencies, private sector, non-government organizations, and local government units. At the conference, ISAAA Chair Dr. Paul Teng talked about food security and how biotech crops help contribute in various aspects of food security, such as improvement of nutrition and agricultural productivity. ISAAA Global Coordinator and SEAsiaCenter Director Dr. Randy Hautea presented the global status, trends, and significant benefits of biotech crop adoption.

Resource persons of the media conference in Makati are (Left to right): DA Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano, ISAAA Global Coordinator and SEAsia Center Director Dr. Hautea, ISAAA Chair Dr. Teng, SEARCA Director Dr. Gil Saguiguit, and Former University of the Philippines President and UPLB Chancellor Dr. Emil Q. Javier.

More information about ISAAA's Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013 are available at ISAAA's website at Various information resources, including the Executive Summary, Top Ten Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2013Powerpoint Slides, Infographics, and videos are all available for download from the same link.

For more information about ISAAA, visit, or follow ISAAA on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2013 Seminars in Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar

ISAAA’s 2013 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops, also called ISAAA Brief 46, has been launched in 7 countries in Asia since its international release in Beijing, China on February 13, 2014. Close monitoring of the tri-media shows that two weeks after its launch, Brief 46 has been mentioned in 1,312 news articles and 1,057 social media posts in 66 countries with a total impression data of 1,148,573,861.

The previous blog post discussed the country launches in China, South Korea, and Japan. Following are summaries of the events in Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar.


In Vietnam, around 126 representatives of media (radio, print, and online), universities, government agencies, and private institutions and companies attended the seminar at Hanoi’s Sofitel Plaza, where Brief 46 was launched on February 20, 2014. The author, Dr. Clive James, presented the highlights of the report including the benefits and future prospects of biotech crops. Other speakers include ISAAA Global Coordinator Dr. Randy A. Hautea, who discussed the impact of biotech corn in the Philippines; ISAAA Chair Dr. Paul Teng talked about food security; and Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre Executive Director Dr. Mahalectumy Arajanan made a presentation on how to communicate biotechnology.

Dr. Clive James at the media conference in Hanoi on February 20.


Around 100 representatives from radio and print media attended the press conference and seminar held at the Rama Gardens Hotel in Bangkok on February 21, 2014. Dr. Clive James, author of Brief 46 was asked about GM food safety and biotechnology for biofuel production.

Dr. James at the seminar in Bangkok with Dr. Sutat Sriwitanapongse (left) and Dr. Supat Attathom (right) from Thailand Biotechnology and Biosafety Information Center.


On February 24, 2014, Brief 46 was launched during an agriculture seminar in Nay Pyi Taw, the new capital city of Myanmar. Myanmar's Union Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, H.E. U Myint Hlaing was present at the seminar and stressed the importance of adopting the appropriate modern technologies including biotechnology in crop production. The event was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MOAI) in collaboration with the National Social and Economic Advisory Council (NSEAC) and ISAAA.

Dr. James presents a replica coin of Dr. Norman Borlaug Congressional Gold Medal to Union Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation H.E. U Myint Hlaing in the presence of Dr. Tin Htut Oo, Chairman of National Economic and Social Advisory Commission and Dr. Tin Htut, Rector of Yezin Agricultural University.
The Minister said “Given the limitation in current activities in plant biotechnology, we have to extend the research activities of plant biotechnology in the near future of which strengthening of technical capacity and human resource development is crucial."

A media conference was also held in Yangon, Myanmar on February 23, which was attended by around 40 tri media practitioners and the private sector.

Updates on the events in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Jakarta, Indonesia will be posted here next week.

More information about ISAAA's Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013 are available at ISAAA's website at Various information resources, including the Executive Summary, Top Ten Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2013,Powerpoint Slides, Infographics, and videos are all available for download from the same link.

For more information about ISAAA, visit, or follow ISAAA on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Friday, February 21, 2014

Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2013 Seminars in China, Korea and Japan

Since 1996, during the first year of commercialization of biotech crops, ISAAA has released the annual “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops”, a Brief documenting the latest information on the global status of commercially approved biotech crops. Year after year, ISAAA prepares the Brief and supports its free distribution to developing countries to provide information and knowledge to the scientific community and facilitate a more informed and transparent discussion regarding the potential role of biotech crops in contributing to global food, feed, fiber and fuel security, and a more sustainable agriculture.

The 2013 Global Status Brief is the 18th such publication in its series, and documents the global database on the adoption and distribution of biotech crops in 2013, when 18 million farmers from 27 countries worldwide planted 175.2 million hectares of biotech crops. Below are summaries of the country launches held for ISAAA's 2013 Global Status Brief.


The 2013 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops Brief was launched at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) in Beijing, China, on February 14, 2014. The launch was held during the Crop Biological Breeding Industrialization Summit 2014, an event attended by more than three hundred participants from China’s scientific and academic community, government agencies, private sector and media. The summit featured a seminar by Dr. Clive James, author of the Brief and ISAAA’s Founder/Emeritus Chair. ISAAA’s Chair Dr. Paul Teng, discussed Food Security: A Defining Issue for Asia.

Dr. James at the media conference in Beijing on February 13.

On February 13, a day before the summit, the Brief was also launched at its first media conference in Beijing, attended by 40 journalists from 35 media outlets. Dr. James was interviewed by China’s CCTV News, China Business Journal, China Economic Observer, Caixin Media,, China National Radio, Health News, and Science News Bi-weekly. Journalists from international media outlets such as Reuters, Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg News Week also interviewed Dr. James.


In Seoul, South Korea, Dr. James presented to members of the media the 2013 global status of biotech crops. Around 20 journalists from Seoul attended the media seminar, and asked Dr. James about the status and development of commercialized biotech crops in Europe, climate change and biotech crops, and the possible solutions to public mistrust and awareness about GM crops.

Dr. James delivers his presentation to members of the media in Seoul.


Around 100 participants attended the media seminar in Tokyo, Japan, with Dr. Masahiro Suzuki of the Council for Biotechnology Information in Japan as seminar chair.

Dr. James gives an overview of his presentation to the audience in Tokyo.

For more information about ISAAA's Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013, visit the website at Various information resources, including the Executive Summary, Top Ten Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2013, Powerpoint Slides, Infographics, and videos are all available for download from the same link.

For more information about ISAAA, visit

Thursday, February 13, 2014

18 Million Farmers in 27 Countries Planted 175.2 Million Hectares of Biotech Crops in 2013

The 2013 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GMCrops, authored by Clive James, Founder and Emeritus Chair of ISAAA, reports that a record 175.2 million hectares of biotech crops were grown globally last year, at an annual growth rate of 3%, or 5 million hectares more from 2012.  The global hectarage of biotech crops have increased more than 100-fold in 18 years, from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 175.2 million hectares in 2013, making biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent history.

Developing Countries Planted More Biotech Crop Hectares
Eighteen years since the first commercial planting of biotech crops, and for the second consecutive year since 2012, developing countries planted more biotech crop hectares than industrial countries, producing 54% of the total global production in 2013. Of the 27 countries that planted biotech crops last year, 19 were developing, while only 8 industrial countries planted biotech crops. 

More Farmers Are Planting and Replanting Biotech Crops
From 1996 to 2013, millions of farmers in almost 30 countries worldwide, elected to make more than 100 million independent decisions to plant and replant an accumulated hectarage of more than 1.6 billion hectares. In 2013 alone, a record 18 million farmers grew biotech crops, up by 0.7 million from 2012, of which more than 90% or over 16.5 million are small, resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

In China, 7.5 million small farmers benefited from biotech cotton, and in India there were 7.3 million beneficiary farmers. In addition to economic gains, farmers benefited enormously from at least 50% reduction in the number of insecticide applications, reducing farmer exposure to insecticides, and importantly contributed to a more sustainable environment and better quality of life.

Women farmers rest on a heap of Bt cotton bolls in China.
Clean Bt cotton bolls make farmers smile in India.
Farmers from Latin America, Asia, and Africa collectively grew 94 million hectares or 54% of the global 175 million biotech hectares (versus 52% in 2012), compared with industrial countries at 81 million hectares or 46% (versus 48% in 2012), almost doubling the hectare gap from 7 to almost 14 million hectares between 2012 to 2013, respectively. This trend is expected to continue, and 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 countries, particularly small poor farmers.

The USA is Still the World’s Lead Producer of Biotech Crops
 The USA continued its leadership in producing biotech crops in 2013 with 70.1 million hectares, an average adoption rate of ~90% across all biotech crops. Since 2006, the USA has planted eight biotech crops, namely: maize, soybean, cotton, canola, sugar beet, alfalfa, papaya, and squash. 

Brazil Continues To Be The Engine Of Biotech Crop Growth Globally
Brazil ranks only second to the USA in biotech crop hectarage in the world with 40.3 million hectares, but emerging as a strong global leader in biotech crop production. For the fifth consecutive year, Brazil increased biotech crop plantings more than any other country in the world.

Progress in Africa
In Africa, continued progress has been made with Burkina Faso and Sudan increasing their Bt cotton hectarage substantially. In 2013, South Africa’s biotech hectarage was marginally less, but practically at the same level as 2012. Encouragingly an additional seven African countries (Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda) have conducted field trials on a broad range of “new” biotech crops (cotton, maize, bananas, and cowpeas), including several orphan crops such as sweet potato. 

A Bt cotton farmer in his field in Burkina Faso.
Five EU Countries Planted Biotech Crops in 2013
Five EU countries, planted a record 148,013 hectares of Bt maize in 2013, with Spain leading with a record 136,962 hectares of Bt maize. The remaining EU countries that planted biotech crops in 2013 are Portugal, Romania, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

Contribution of Biotech Crops to Food Security, Sustainability and Climate Change
From 1996 to 2013, biotech crops contributed to Food Security, Sustainability and Climate Change by:
·         increasing crop production valued at US$116.9 billion;
·         providing a better environment, by saving 497 million kg a.i. of pesticides; in 2012 alone reducing CO2 emissions by 26.7 billion kg, equivalent to taking 11.8 million cars off the road for one year;
·         conserving biodiversity in the period 1996-2012 by saving 123 million hectares of land; and
·         helped alleviate poverty by helping >16.5 million small farmers, and their families totaling >65 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world.

Future Prospects
The near-term looks optimistic with more modest annual gains expected due to the already high rates of adoption (90% or more) in the principal biotech crops in mature markets in both developing and industrial countries. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Panama approved biotech crop planting in 2013 with plans for commercialization in 2014.

For more information about ISAAA, visit the website at

The Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013 information resources, including the Executive Summary, Top Ten Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2013, Powerpoint Slides, Infographics, and videos are all available for download at:

Friday, July 05, 2013

ISAAA's GM Approval Database: A One-Stop-Shop for Biotech Crop Information

In 2012, 170.3 million hectares of commercialized biotech crops were planted by more than 17 million farmers in 28 developing and industrial countries worldwide. These numbers are clear indications that many farmers from different agricultural conditions choose biotech crops because of the benefits they offer.

Unknown to many people, biotech crops pass through rigorous, science-based evaluation for a number of years before they reach farmers’ fields to assure the public that these crops are safe to consumers' health and the environment. In the United States, there are nine steps in the regulatory process which usually takes around seven to ten years to complete, a far more thorough procedure than what any conventional crop goes through. All such processes are documented and pertinent regulatory information are made available through the approving countries' Biotechnology Clearing Houses and their websites.

In an effort to put together such information, ISAAA created the GM Approval Database, an easy to use online atlas of biotech crops approved for cultivation, trade and/or consumption. The database features the basic information on different crop genetic modifications (GM) called events, and the summary of regulatory approvals granted for these events in different countries.

GM Approval Database page from ISAAA's website.

Led by Drs. Rhodora R. Aldemita and Renando O. Solis, ISAAA intended this database to be of general use, and its developers sought to simplify its contents and maximize the convenience of navigating through the information that the database can provide according to its users' preferences. Dr. Solis said that while the database provides only basic and summarized information for each of the hundreds of events currently in the atlas, users can be directed to other online sources for additional information.

The database does provide the latest information on approved GM events, which adds to its increasing functionality. So far, most of the feedbacks have come from users who are involved in seed business or seed regulation, and some get to contribute to update the current data. The synchrony of international approvals for biotech crops would have an impact on international seed and food trade, and this is the reason why ISAAA is constantly on the watch to track these approvals through the pre-commercial pipeline of every country. Researchers and biotech advocates have also sent feedback, and their suggestions open avenues for further improvement.

ISAAA’s GM Approval Database currently holds information for 329 unique events representing 26 biotech crops with regulatory approval in at least one country for food/feed use or commercial cultivation. Links to more than 2,000 regulatory documents and related information are also provided.

For more information about ISAAA and the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, visit our website at: and To subscribe to the weekly Crop Biotech Update, click here:

ISAAA is also on Facebook ( and Twitter ( 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bt Toxin: A Story of the Pen and its Cap

Explaining the Bt technology to a layman might be hard because you would need to define a lot of terms and explain a number of concepts. However, plant biotechnologist Dr. K.C. Bansal, made it easy using a pen and its cap.

The protein produced by Bt crops is generally called a Bt protoxin which can be represented by a pen without a cap. So once the pest consumes a part of a Bt plant, the Bt protoxin (pen) meets with a receptor inside the insect's gut which is represented by the cap of the pen. When the protoxin (pen) and the receptor (cap) bind together in alkaline gut condition, they become an activated toxin, ready to poison the gut of the pest such as cotton bollworm, the eggplant fruit and shoot borer, and the Asian and European corn borers.

When non-target organisms (like humans and animals) ingest a part of a Bt plant, the toxin will not be activated because the receptor (cap) is only present in the gut of target organisms. Thus, the Bt protoxin will not take its action and become a toxin. Bt plants therefore are as safe as its conventional counterparts for food and feed. It has been proven safe by international food safety agencies since Bt corn were introduced in 1996.

For more information about Bt technology, read ISAAA Pocket K No. 6 at

Artwork by Rene Aranda, Philippine Star.

For more information about ISAAA and the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, visit our website at: and To subscribe to the weekly Crop Biotech Update, click here: