11.09.2019 |

Area planted with genetically modified crops stagnated in 2018

GM soybeans grow on 95.9 million hectares worldwide (Photo: CC0)

The global area planted with genetically modified crops reached 191.7 million hectares in 2018, according to the annual report of the GMO-friendly organisation “International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA)”. The global hectarage only increased by 1% from 189.8 million hectares in 2017. The figures published in August show that 91% of the cultivation of GM crops is still concentrated in just five countries. The United States top the list with 75 million hectares or 39 per cent of the global area. Brazil ranks second with 51.3 million hectares (27%), followed by Argentina (23.9 million hectares or 12%), Canada (12.7 million hectares) and India (11.6 million hectares). Other GM producing countries with an area of over one million hectares include Paraguay, China, Pakistan, South Africa, Uruguay and Bolivia.

In Brazil, the area planted with GM crops increased by 2% or one million hectares while the area in Argentina grew by 1.3% to 309,540 hectares. In Canada, however, the area planted with GM crops saw a 3% decrease from 13.11 million hectares in 2017. In Asia, increases were registered in India and China, with a growth of 2% and 4% respectively. In Pakistan, the GM crop area decreased even by 7% as compared to 2017. In the European Union, where Spain and Portugal remain the only countries planting the insect-resistant maize MON810, the area decreased to 120,990 hectares, down 8% from 131,535 hectares in 2017. Almost 95% of the total area planted with GM maize was in Spain. ISAAA, which is sponsored by CropLife International, an association of agrochemical companies such as Bayer, BASF and Syngenta, is disappointed that “the acceptance of biotech crops in the EU is still far from improving”. The organization writes that “there was less motivation to plant biotech maize in the EU since the market calls for non-biotech raw materials.”

Across the globe, soybean remained the most adopted GM crop, covering 95.9 million hectares or 50% of the total GM crop area. Genetically modified maize occupied 58.9 million hectares in 2018, down 1.3% from the previous year, followed by cotton (24.21 million hectares) and rapeseed (10.2 million hectares). Based on the global crop area for individual crops, 78% of soybeans, 76% of cotton, 30% of maize and 29% of canola were genetically modified crops in 2018. The good news is that the share of GM cotton, maize and canola decreased as compared to 2017, when 80% of cotton, 32% of maize and 30% of canola were still genetically modified. Insect resistance and herbicide tolerance are the only two traits that have been developed and cultivated on a large scale. 46% of GM crops grown in 2018 were herbicide tolerant, 12% were insect resistant and 42% had a combination of both traits (stacked traits). The area planted to GM crops with stacked traits increased by 4% as compared to 2017.

As every year, the report praises the alleged benefits of GM crops to the skies. ISAAA claims that the adoption of GM crops made important contributions to food security, sustainability and climate change solutions. According to the report, GM crops helped to decrease herbicide and insecticide use by 8.4% in the period 1996 to 2016. The organization also claims that, since their commercial introduction in 1996, GM crops conserved biodiversity by saving 183 million hectares of land from plowing and cultivation. Additionally, in developing countries, planting GM crops is reported to have helped alleviate hunger by improving the economic situation of 16-17 million small farmers and their families, totaling more than 65 million people. At least this is what ISAAA says. However, the good news is that the 191.7 million hectares planted with GM crops in 2018 only made up roughly 3.9% of the total agricultural area and 13.7% of arable land while the rest still remains GMO-free. (ab)

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