Global Biotech Crop Acreage Grows 11 Percent—Activists Spin


The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications has issued its annual report on biotech crop adoption. In the tenth anniversary year since biotech crops were first planted, the ISAAA reports,

The global area of approved biotech crops in 2005 was 90 million hectares, equivalent to 222 million acres, up from 81 million hectares or 200 million acres in 2004. The increase was 9.0 million hectares or 22 million acres, equivalent to an annual growth rate of 11% in 2005.

Nearly one-third of all crop acres in the United States are planted with genetically enhanced crops.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth is still claiming, "Ten years after the first significant planting of Genetically Modified (GM) crops, no plants with benefits to consumers or the environment have materialized."

The industry-supported National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy counters with a report of its own. That report based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data finds that, compared to conventional crops, biotech "crop production was enhanced by 6.6 billion pounds; crop production costs were decreased by $1.7 billion dollars; and pesticide use was lowered by 62.0 million pounds in 2004."

Enhancing production means less land plowed down to grow crops, which is a definite environmental benefit. Reducing pesticide residues is often perceived as both an environmental and consumer benefit.

In any case, biotech seed companies are soon planning to release biotech crops with specific consumer benefits. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Monsanto will introduce:

-Soybeans bred with higher levels of beta-conglycinin, which will improve taste and texture in products such as soy milk, meat alternatives and energy bars.

-Vegetables bred for a variety of consumer characteristics, such as melons that last longer after cutting, or sweeter corn.

-Soybeans genetically modified to contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which improve heart health and may have other benefits such as reducing swelling in arthritis.

-Later versions of Vistive soybeans, genetically modified for further oil profile improvements—making the oil stable for baking uses; and adding oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat that boosts good HDL cholesterol.

Most disheartening to the alleged Friends of the Earth must be the fact that China appears poised to widely adopt a variety of biotech crops, according to the Washington Post.

Disclosure: No biotech crop stocks were flogged in this blog item.