Is the United States the only country growing and consuming biotech crops?
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Q: Is the United States the only country growing and consuming biotech crops?
No. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), 27 countries were planting and growing biotech crops as of 2013, 19 of which were developing countries and 8 of which were industrial countries. The top 10 countries with the most biotech crop activity each grew more than one million hectares providing a broad-based worldwide foundation for diversified growth in the future; in fact, the top nine each grew more than 2 million hectares. More than half the world’s population, 60 percent or about four billion people, live in these 27 countries planting biotech crops.
For the second year in a row, developing countries planted more biotech crops than industrial countries. In 2013, a record 18 million farmers – up from 17.3 million in the previous year – grew biotech crops. Over 90% of them were risk-averse small, poor farmers in developing countries including 7.5 million small farmers in China and 7.3 million in India. This is contrary to the prediction of critics who, prior to the commercialization of the technology in 1996, prematurely declared that biotech crops were only for industrial countries and would never be accepted and adopted by developing countries.
Farmers in China growing biotech crops gained US$15.3 billion and in India US$14.6 billion, according to the latest economic data available for the period 1996 to 2012. In addition to economic gains, farmers benefitted enormously from at least a 50% reduction in the number of insecticide applications – reducing their exposure to insecticides and importantly, contributing to a more sustainable environment and better quality of life.
The U.S. continued to be the lead producer of biotech crops globally with 70.1 million hectares, with an average adoption rate of about 90% across its principal biotech crops. Five European Union countries planted a record 148,013 hectares of biotech Bt maize, up 15% from 2012.
There is widespread agreement among scientists on the safety of biotech crops and foods. More than 3,400 renowned scientists worldwide, including 25 Nobel Prize winners, have signed a declaration in support of agricultural biotechnology and its safety to humans, animals and the environment.
Those countries that do not grow biotech foods and crops may do so because of political, cultural and socioeconomic reasons, however, significant scientific evidence of the safety of agricultural biotechnology has been well-documented.