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09.05.2017 |

Share of GM soybean declined in 2016, 87% of world’s arable land GMO-free

Soybean
Soybean, the most adopted GM crop (Photo: CC0)

The global area planted with genetically modified crops reached 185.1 million hectares in 2016 - at least according to the annual report of the GMO-friendly organisation “International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA)”. The global hectarage is up 3% from the 179.1 million hectares in 2015, when the area decreased for the first time since the commercial introduction of GM crops in 1996. The figures published on May 4 show that 91% of the cultivation of GM crops is still concentrated in just five countries. The United States top the list with with 72.9 million hectares or 39 per cent of the global area. Brazil ranks second with 49.1 million hectares, followed by Argentina (23.8 million hectares), Canada (11.6 million hectares) and India (10.8 million hectares). Other GM producing countries with an area of over one million hectares include Paraguay, Pakistan, China, South Africa, Uruguay and Bolivia. In Brazil, the area planted with GM crops increased by 11%. The country now accounts for one third of the area planted with genetically modified soybean. However, in Argentina, the hectarage of GM crops decreased by 3% and in India even by 7%.

Soybean remained the most adopted GM crop, covering 91.4 million hectares or 50% of the global area of GM crops. Genetically modified maize occupied 60.6 million hectares in 2016, 13% higher than the 2015 area, followed by cotton (22.3 million hectares) and rapeseed (8.6 million hectares). The good news is that the share of the three main GM crops, based on the global area planted with each individual crop, decreased as compared to the previous year. In 2016, 78% of soybean fields were planted with GM soybean (2015: 83%), the share of GM cotton as compared to conventional crops was 64% (2015: 75%) and for GM maize the figure was 26% (2015: 29%). Only the share of canola remained stable at 24%. Insect resistance and herbicide tolerance are the only two traits that have been developed and cultivated on a large scale. 47% of GM crops grown in 2016 were herbicide tolerant, 12% were insect resistant and 41% had a combination of both traits (stacked traits). Both the hectarage of GM crops featuring insect resistance and herbicide tolerance decreased while stacked traits increased by 29% or 16.9 million hectares in 2016.

As every year, the report praises the alleged benefits of GM crops to the skies. ISAAA claims that the adoption of GM crops has conserved biodiversity by removing 19.4 million hectares of land from agriculture in 2015 and led to a 19% reduction in herbicide and insecticide use. Additionally, in developing countries, planting GM crops is reported to have helped alleviate hunger by increasing the incomes for 18 million small farmers and their families, bringing improved financial stability to more than 65 million people. At least this is what ISAAA says, which is sponsored by agrochemical giant Monsanto and CropLife International, the association of agricultural biotech companies. However, the good news is that the 185.1 million hectares planted with GM crops in 2016 only made up roughly 3% of the total agricultural area and 13.8% of arable land while the rest still remains GMO-free. (ab)

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