Thursday, August 23, 2012

ISAAA's Clive James Comments on the 2012 USDA Crop Acreage Report

In a commentary on the June 2012 USDA Crop Acreage Report, ISAAA's Founder and Board Chair Dr. Clive James, said that U.S. farmers continue to demonstrate overwhelming trust and confidence in biotech crops, and that global adoption of such crops is expected to continue to grow in the future, particularly in developing countries, where there is a promising pipeline of new products.

Biotech corn harvested in Camarines Sur province, Philippines. (ISAAA photo)

“Unprecedented high adoption rates are testimony to overwhelming trust and confidence in biotech crops by millions of farmers worldwide,” said Dr. James, who is also the author of ISAAA's annual Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops. He added that “Farmers are masters of risk aversion. As soon as biotech crops are commercialized, their adoption is rapid, leading to near or complete optimization  –  the simple reason for the success of biotech crops in the U.S., and in another 28 countries around the world, is that they generate significant and multiple benefits by reducing yield loss from insect pests, weeds and diseases, and also result in substantial savings of pesticides.”

Since its commercialization in 1996, 16.7 million farmers in 29 countries worldwide, including the U.S., planted 160 million hectares of biotech crops. Of these 29 countries planting biotech crops in 2011, 19 are developing while 10 are industrial countries.

In his commentary to the USDA Report, Dr. James noted the continuing trend to near-or complete optimization of the technology in three major U.S. crops, with 88% of all maize, 93% of all soybean, and 94% of all upland cotton planted to biotech varieties and hybrids featuring the two principal traits of insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.

Biotech soybean field in the United States. (USDA-ARS photo)

The current devastating drought in the U.S., that is badly affecting at least half of the maize crop, is generating increased interest in biotech drought tolerant maize which is currently being tested in extensive field trials. It is premature to comment on the performance of the biotech drought tolerant maize until the analysis of data from the field trials in the U.S. is completed later this year. Drought tolerance is an infinitely more complex trait than herbicide tolerance and insect resistance and progress is likely to be on a step by step basis. Encouraging results from the 2012 field tests in the U.S. for biotech drought tolerant maize would be a significant step forward to address drought, the most important constraint  to increasing crop productivity globally, to which both conventional and biotech applications can contribute.

Dr. James added that “the expected plateauing trend to optimal adoption rates of around 90 percent that we have seen in the U.S., has also been evident in other industrial countries like Australia with 99.5% adoption in biotech cotton.  Similarly, as expected, the major biotech crops in principal developing countries exhibit the same trend, again confirming the trust and confidence of farmers in the technology. Herbicide tolerant soybean has virtually reached 100 percent in Argentina and the latest ISAAA data for 2011 shows Bt cotton in India at 88%, and biotech soybean in Brazil at 83%. Given that products in mature markets are already plateauing at close to optimal rates, incremental annual growth in adoption will be more modest and will be boosted as: 1.) additional hectares are planted, as was the case with total maize plantings in the US in 2012 (up 5%); 2.) new traits or new biotech crops are approved; or 3.) new countries adopt biotech crops.”

The full news release is available free for download at ISAAA's website here: http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/pressrelease/2012/default.asp

Related materials on ISAAA's 2011 Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops, including the translations of the Executive Summary and Highlights are available at: http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/43/default.asp

A new set of 15 Biotech Country Facts and Trends are also available free for download at: http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/biotech_country_facts_and_trends/default.asp

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