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Genetically modified seeds usage up; India’s 63% rise the highest

Genetically modified seeds usage up; India’s 63% rise the highest
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First Published: Thu, Feb 14 2008. 11 49 PM IST
New York: Plantings of genetically modified seeds produced by companies including Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co. jumped 12% in 2007, led by farmers in India, Brazil and the US, a study has shown.
The area sown with engineered crops grew to 283.3 million acres (114.3 million ha), Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), said on Wednesday.
“Biotech crops are poised for even greater growth in the coming years, particularly in developing countries where the need is greatest,” the ISAAA chairman said on a conference call from the Philippines.
“If we are to meet the need for food, feed and biofuels, we must continue the adoption of biotech crops,” he said.
The value of modified seeds will climb 8.7% this year to $7.5 billion (Rs29,775 crore) as the technology is used on more land and as rising demand for food and biofuels boosts crop prices, the group said.
US farmers increased plantings by 5.7% last year to 143 million acres, accounting for half the world’s total, ISAAA said.
The biggest gains were in Brazil, the third largest user of the technology, where plantings of modified cotton and soya bean increased 30% to 37 million acres, and India, which ranks fifth and raised plantings by 63% to 15 million acres, the group said.
India’s insect-resistant cotton was grown by 3.8 million resource-poor farmers, ISAAA said.
Improved yields have allowed India to become a net exporter of cotton, and the nation’s Supreme Court has ruled that field trials on additional types of engineered crops may continue, James said.
James said Asian countries will approve rice modified to boost vitamin A content and resist insects during the next decade.
“That will be the most important contribution of these biotech crops,” James said.
About 500,000 children become blind from vitamin A deficiency every year, and insect-resistant crops reduce pesticide costs, he said.
ISAAA, a US-based non-profit organization with offices in Kenya and the Philippines, tries to alleviate hunger and poverty by sharing crop biotechnology. It is funded by governments, foundations and companies including US-headquartered Monsanto.
The Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth Europe, opponents of biotech seeds, said in a report that such crops don’t alleviate hunger or poverty because they are mostly used to feed animals in rich nations and displace land once used to grow food for local consumption.
Argentina was the second biggest user of biotech crops last year as the Latin American country increased plantings 6.1% to 47 million acres. Canada was fourth, with a 15% gain to 17 million acres.
Soya bean accounted for 51% of gene-altered crops in 2007, down from 57% in 2006, the ISAAA said.
Corn made up 31% of the global biotech area, up from 24%. Cotton and canola accounted for the remainder.
Biotech crops were planted in 23 countries last year, one more than in 2006, and 29 nations accept imports of the crops for food and animal feed, ISAAA said.
Engineered seeds have been sold since 1996, when they were sown on 4 million acres. The most widespread biotech crops resist Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide or kill insects. Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed-maker, said on 10 October that 246.5 million acres containing its engineered traits were grown last year, up 13% from a year earlier. That would indicate Monsanto’s technology, including licences to rivals such as DuPont, was used on 87% of the global biotech area, based on the international group’s report.
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First Published: Thu, Feb 14 2008. 11 49 PM IST