Biotech crops reduce use of pesticides–experts

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that up to 35 percent of the losses in the annual crop production worldwide are due to pests—insects, weeds, plant diseases, rodents and birds.  Of the estimated 1 million insects in the world, between 150 and  200 species frequently cause serious damage to crops.

When losses due to pests are combined with postharvest losses, worldwide food losses would amount to 45 percent. “This is almost one half of the world’s potential food supply,” the FAO pointed out. Read more

Davao stakeholders updated on crop biotech and Philippine biosafety guidelines

Davao stakeholders updated on crop biotech and Philippine biosafety guidelines

Various key stakeholder groups: regulators, farmer leaders, students, scientists, academe, DA information officers, and members and officials of local government units of selected municipalities in Davao region in the Philippines learned about the science, food and environmental safety, and socioeconomic benefits of biotech crops, as well as the biosafetyregulatory guidelines in the country, during the Biotechnology 101 & Joint Department Circular (JDC) Public Briefing held on August 16, 2017 at The Pinnacle Hotel and Suites, Davao City.

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SEARCA pushes for coexistence of agricultural technologies

SEARCA pushes for coexistence of agricultural technologies

SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. reiterated the increasing importance of safe, and evidence- and science-based agricultural technologies in promoting agricultural productivity and food and nutrition security amidst challenges like climate change, dwindling production resources, rapid population increase, and extreme poverty.

Among these technologies is biotechnology, including both traditional (e.g., selective breeding, fermentation techniques) and modern (i.e., genetic engineering) techniques, which the Center looks at as an important tool in addressing the abovementioned challenges. SEARCA particularly pushes for “coexistence,” which, according to a report of the US Department of Agriculture Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, “is the concurrent cultivation of conventional, organic, identity preserved (IP) and genetically engineered crops consistent with underlying consumer preferences and farmer choices.”

Dr. Saguiguit made this statement following the Philippine launch of the annual report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) on the global status of commercialized biotech crops. According to the ISAAA report, global planting of biotech crops reached 185.1 million hectares in 2016, which increased from 179.7 million hectares in 2015. A total of 26 countries grew biotech crops, including the Philippines, which planted around 812,000 hectares of biotech yellow corn last year. Biotech corn varieties, which are grown in the country since 2003, are pest resistant and herbicide tolerant, thus providing various documented benefits to Filipino farmers including significant increase in yield and reduction in production costs.

Dr. Saguiguit said that through SEARCA’s Tenth Five-Year Plan focused on Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (ISARD), the Center believes that due attention must be given to resource poor farmers by providing them access to information, best practices, and new technologies that will increase their farm productivity.

“Our goal is to give our farmers a fighting chance to cope with the many challenges and obstacles they face in farming. Through biotechnology and many other innovations, we hope to offer them better opportunities so that they can provide not only for their families but also contribute to the nation’s food security and overall development. Along these lines, SEARCA qualifies that it only promotes agricultural technologies and practices that are known to be safe and do not compromise human and environmental health,” said Dr. Saguiguit.

With the continuing opposition to biotechnology, Dr. Saguiguit said that it is all the more important for the public, particularly decision and policymakers, to understand the said technology in the context of scientific and empirical evidence.

New report highlights 20 years of economic and environmental benefits from using biotech/GM crops

Press release: 5 June 2017: Dorchester, UK

A new report released today by PG Economics has found that over the last 20 years, crop biotechnology has significantly reduced agriculture’s environmental impact and stimulated economic growth in the 26 countries where the technology is used. The innovative agricultural technology has contributed to preserving the earth’s natural resources while allowing farmers to grow more, high quality crops. It has also helped alleviate poverty for 16.5 million, mostly smallholder farmers, in developing countries.

“Over the last 20 years, where farmers have been given access to, and the choice of growing biotech/GM crops, they have consistently adopted the technology, contributing to a more sustainable food supply and a better environment where they live,” said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the report.

Highlights in the peer reviewed2 report include:

Crop biotechnology has reduced agriculture’s environmental impact

  • Crop biotechnology has significantly reduced agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions by helping farmers adopt more sustainable practices such as reduced tillage, which decreases the burning of fossil fuels and retains more carbon in the soil. Had biotech crops not been grown in 2015, for example, an additional 26.7 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide would have been emitted into the atmosphere, which is the equivalent of adding 11.9 million cars to the roads.
  • From 1996 to 2015, crop biotechnology reduced the spraying of crop protection products by 619 million kilograms, a global reduction of 8.1 per cent. This is equal to more than China’s total crop protection product use each year3. As a result, farmers who grow biotech crops have reduced the environmental impact associated with their crop protection practices by 18.6 per cent4.

Crop biotechnology has reduced pressure to use new land in agriculture and contributed to global food security

Biotech crops allow farmers to grow more without needing to use additional land. For example, if crop biotechnology had not been available to farmers in 2015, maintaining global production levels that year would have required the planting of an additional 8.4 million hectares (ha) of soybeans, 7.4 million ha of corn, 3 million ha of cotton and 0.7 million ha of canola. This is equivalent to needing an additional 11 per cent of the arable land in the United States, or roughly 31 per cent of the arable land in Brazil or 13 per cent of the cropping area in China.

Crop biotechnology enables farmers to increase crop yields

• Insect resistant (IR) crop technology used in cotton and corn has consistently improved yields by reducing the damage caused by pests. From 1996 to 2015, across all users of this technology, yields have increased by an average of +13.1 per cent for IR corn and +15 per cent for IR cotton relative to conventional production systems.  Farmers who grow IR soybeans commercially in South America have seen an average +9.6 per cent increase in yields since 2013.

• In some countries, herbicide tolerant (HT) technology has improved yields through better weed control. For example, in Bolivia, HT soybeans increased yields by +15 per cent.  In Argentina, HT technology has helped farmers grow an additional soybean crop after wheat in the same growing season5.

• Biotech farmers in developing countries, many of whom are resource-poor and farm small plots of land, continue to see the highest yield gains from using the technology.

• Over 20 years, crop biotechnology has been responsible for the additional production of 180.3 million tonnes of soybeans, 357.7 million tonnes of corn, 25.2 million tonnes of cotton lint and 10.6 million tonnes of canola.

Crop biotechnology supports improved livelihoods, especially for poor, smallholder farmers in developing countries

• By better controlling pests and weeds, crop biotechnology helps farmers increase their yields, which leads to higher incomes and better lives for themselves and their families. In 2015, the net farm level economic benefit was $15.5 billion, equal to an average increase in income of $90/hectare. From 1996 to 2015, the net global farm income benefit was $167.7 billion.

Crop biotechnology contributes to global economic success

• Crop biotechnology continues to be a good investment for millions of farmers. In 2015, for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds globally, farmers netted an average $3.45.

• In 2015, farmers in developing countries received $5.15 for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds, whereas farmers in developed countries received $2.76 for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds.

For additional information, contact Graham Brookes at Tel +44(0) 1432 851007.


1 Report available at Also, available as two papers (with open access), separately, covering economic and environmental impacts, in the peer review journal GM Crops and Food. The environmental paper is available at issue 2017, 8,2, p117-147 The economic impact paper is forthcoming in 2017, 8, issue 3.

2 Peer reviewed means accepted for publication in a scientific journal after review by independent experts in the subject(s).

3 Equal to 1.3 times annual use.

4 As measured by Cornell University’s Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) indicator.

5 By facilitating the use of reduced tillage, this effectively shortens the time between planting and harvesting of a crop

Philippines leads Southeast Asia in GM corn production

Philippines leads Southeast Asia in GM corn production

On May 19, 2017, media practitioners, farmers, and government agency officers were briefed during a media conference on ISAAA’s latest report, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016 at the Acacia Hotel, Alabang, Muntinlupa City, Philippines.

The 2016 report states that Philippine biotech corn adoption increased to 812,000 hectares in 2016, a remarkable 16% increase (110,000 hectares) from the 702,000 hectares planted in 2015. The increase is due to favorable weather conditions, and high local demand for livestock and feed stocks. Biotech/GM corn, which was approved for commercial planting in 2002 is the only biotech crop planted in the country. The other two countries in Southeast Asia that planted biotech crops in 2016 are Myanmar and Vietnam.

ISAAA Board Chair Dr. Paul S. Teng presented the report, including the global impact and future prospects of biotech crops. SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. said that the 2016 figures surpass previous records and attest to the effectiveness and benefits of biotechnology.

Meanwhile, Officer-in-Charge and Director of the Bureau of Plant Industry; and Director of the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Biotechnology Program of the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Vivencio R. Mamaril, reported on the biosafety regulatory developments in the country, particularly the harmonization of the Joint Department Circular by the five government departments, namely the Departments of Agriculture; Science and Technology; Environment and Natural Resources; Health; and the Interior and Local Government. The JDC is the latest biosafety regulatory guidelines for biotech crops in the Philippines, and is expected to regulate the testing and commercialization of other biotech crops in the pipeline, including Bt eggplant, PRSV-R papaya, Bt cotton, and Golden Rice.

Scientists to release biotech maize, cotton varieties in Kenya

Kenyan scientists have used modern biotechnology to develop two crop varieties that are expected to be released in the country soon.

Simon Gichuki of the Kenya Agricultural, Livestock Research Organization’s (KALRO) Biotechnology Research Institute (BioRI) said that the maize and cotton varieties are already awaiting the National Performance Trials before they can be released for field trials, while gypsophilla flower will follow soon.

“The products have been produced within the country by local scientists where risk assessment has been done in accordance with the law,” he said during an agricultural biotechnology sensitization workshop in Nairobi on Friday.

Gichuki noted that genetically modified drought- and pest-resistant cassava, sorghum and sweet potato are due to be complete soon.

Julia Njagi, a biosafety officer at the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), revealed that the authority has approved 24 crop varieties for laboratory and greenhouse trials, 14 for Confined Field Trials (CFT) and three for environmental trials.

She added that the two varieties are pending approval and are at the laboratory and environmental release stages.

Research on Bt cotton was completed in 2002-2012 and approved by NBA for National Performance Trials (NPT) by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS).

Insect-resistant and drought-tolerant maize variety has also been approved and is undergoing NPT by KEPHIS experts. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/

-Published in NewsGhana.  See original article link here.

Philippine Biotech Crop Area Rebounds in 2016

Philippine Biotech Crop Area Rebounds in 2016

PRESS RELEASE, 19 May 2017: Biotech/GM corn production in the Philippines rebounds in 2016 as the country remains to be the top grower of biotech or genetically modified (GM) crops in Southeast Asia, and ranks as the twelfth biggest producer of such crops in the world, according to the latest report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

searcabic_btcornharvestISAAA states that in 2016, 185.1 million hectares of biotech/GM crops were planted in 26 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North and Latin America. Of this area, 812,000 hectares of biotech/GM corn was planted in the Philippines in 2016, a remarkable 16% increase from the 702,000 hectares planted in 2015 which is equivalent to 110,000 hectares. The increase is due to favorable weather conditions, and high local demand for livestock and feed stocks. Biotech/GM corn, which was approved for commercial planting in 2002 is the only biotech crop planted in the country today.

Adoption rates of biotech/GM corn also increased from 63% in 2015 to 65% in 2016, when the number of small, resource-poor farmers, growing on average, 2 hectares of biotech/GM corn in the Philippines was estimated to be over 406,000. According to the report, the farm level economic benefit of planting biotech/GM corn in the country from 2003 to 2015 is estimated to have reached US$642 million, and for 2015 alone, the net national impact of biotech/GM crop on farm income was estimated at US$82 million.

ISAAA’s 2016 report which was launched on May 4, 2017 in Beijing, China also states that there are only 13 biotech/GM corn events approved for cultivation in the Philippines, with the last approval given in 2014. There have been 88 biotech crop event approvals for food, feed, and processing cultivation in the Philippines, including: alfalfa (2 events), rapeseed (2), cotton (8), corn (52), potato (8), rice (1), soybean (14), and sugar beet (1).

Current research and development efforts on biotech/GM crops in the Philippines include products from the public sector: fruit and shoot borer resistant Bt eggplant led by the Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (IPB-UPLB); biotech papaya with delayed ripening and papaya ring spot virus (PRSV) resistance, also being developed by IPB-UPLB; Bt cotton being developed by the Philippine Fiber Development Administration (PFIDA, formerly the Cotton Development Authority); and Golden Rice (GR), a biotech rice biofortified with provitamin A beta-carotene that is being developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

The Philippines continues to be at the forefront of biotech research and commercialization in Southeast Asia, and the acceptance of biotech/GM crops in the country has been demonstrated by key stakeholders including the general public, such that a Joint Department Circular (JDC) was quickly put together in record time of three months in 2016 after the Supreme Court nullified and invalidated the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order 8 (DA AO8) which served as the government policy for biotech/GM crops for more than 20 years. Future commercialization of Bt eggplant, PRSV-R papaya, Bt cotton, and Golden Rice will be regulated under the new JDC.

Despite a temporary decline in biotech/GM corn area in 2015, the Philippines has quickly rebounded production in 2016, when adoption rates for the crop increased due to the enormous benefits enjoyed by Filipino consumers, farmers and their families.

biotechcornfarmerMore than 18 million small farmers and their families have benefited from biotech crops in the last 21 years. ISAAA reports that the adoption of biotech crops has reduced CO2 emissions equivalent to removing approximately 12 million cars from the road annually in recent years. Biotech crops have helped conserve biodiversity by saving 174 million hectares of land from being ploughed and cultivated, and decreased the environmental impact of agriculture by reducing herbicide and insecticide applications and environmental impact by 19% in 1996-2015, and 18.4% in 2015 alone. Additionally, in developing countries, planting biotech crops has helped alleviate hunger and poverty by increasing the incomes for 18 million small farmers and their families, bringing improved financial stability to more than 65 million people.

INFOGRAPHICS: Philippine biotech/GM crops adoption in 2016

INFOGRAPHICS: Philippine biotech/GM crops adoption in 2016

The Philippines was first country in Southeast Asia to plant biotech corn in 2003 after its approval for commercial planting in 2002.  An estimated of 6.03 million hectares of land in the country was planted with biotech corn since then.

This infographics describes the Philippine adoption of biotech/GM crops in 2016.  Despite a temporary decline in biotech/GM corn area in 2015, the Philippines has quickly rebounded production in 2016, when adoption rates for the crop increased due to the enormous benefits enjoyed by Filipino consumers, farmers and their families.

Download infographics

Genetically-modified mustard gets GEAC nod for cultivation

The recommendation for clearance has been sent to Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave who has to approve the decision.

AFTER MONTHS of suspense, a genetically-modified variety of mustard, developed by a Delhi-based institute, has been cleared for commercial cultivation by the country’s top regulator on genetically-engineered organisms. The GEAC, or Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, a body that functions under the Environment Ministry, on Thursday gave its recommendation to approve the long-pending application of the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University which had developed a transgenic mustard called DMH-11.

The recommendation for clearance has been sent to Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave who has to approve the decision. The GEAC’s decision on Thursday puts DHM-11 mustard at a stage where Bt brinjal, a transgenic variety of brinjal, had found itself seven years ago. Bt brinjal was the first genetically modified food crop that had reached the Environment Minister’s table for clearance after obtaining all the necessary regulatory requirements. The then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, however, had refused clearance and put an indefinite moratorium the decision. That moratorium continues to this day.

GM mustard is the only other food crop which has made it to this last stage, after prolonged debate and several rounds of regulatory checks that has been going on for years. It is not clear what Dave would decide on this crop.

But organisations opposed to genetically-modified crops slammed the GEAC’s decision. “GEAC has proved yet again that it is unscientific and uncaring with regard to citizens’ health and environment. They have failed in their very mandate and purpose for which they have been created, to protect citizens from the risk of GMOs… We hope and urge minister Anil Madhav Dave to be responsible in his decision-making. This GM mustard should be rejected just as Bt brinjal was, seven years ago,” said Sarson Satyagraha which claims to be a platform for “hundreds of organisations” representing farmers and scientists opposed to introduction of GM mustard.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi in Indian Express website.  See original article link here.1212

ISAAA presents 2016 Annual Report on GM crops adoption in 2016

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) launched its 2016 report titled Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016. Two launch events were held on May 4 and 5, 2017 in Beijing, China.

The media conference held on May 4, 2017 at China Wold Hotel was attended by some 40 journalists from Chinese and international news agencies. ISAAA Chair, Dr. Paul Teng, presented the highlights of the report. He stressed that the adoption of biotech crops increased to 185.1 million hectares in 2016 after the slight decline observed in 2015. ISAAA Senior Program Officer, Dr. Rhodora Aldemita, talked about the development and adoption of biotech crops in Asia.

The following day, a seminar was held on May 5, 2017 at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which was attended by 120 scientists, members of the academe, and students. Drs. Paul Teng and Rhodora Aldemita presented the highlights of the ISAAA report. Mr. Zhang Xianfa from the Ag GMO Division of the Ministry of Agriculture discussed the status of Chinese biotech crops regulation and development. The participants signified their interest in the adoption of more biotech crops in the country to benefit not just the farmers and their families, but also the consumers.

The events were organized in cooperation with China Biotechnology Information Center, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the Chinese Biotechnology Society.

For more information about the events, send an email to The ISAAA report is downloadable at the ISAAA website.

-Published by ISAAA.  See original article link here.

ISAAA Brief 52-2016: Executive Summary

This 2016 ISAAA Brief is an extension of the 20 Volumes of Annual Briefs (1996 to 2015) on global status of biotech/GM crops authored by Clive James,
Founder & Emeritus Chairman of ISAAA


The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications publishes the Annual Global Review of Biotech Crops Commercialization or ISAAA Briefs. ISAAA Brief 52 is the 21st of the series which documents the latest information on the subject, global database on the adoption and distribution of biotech crops in 2016 as well as the accumulative data since 1996 (the first year of commercialization), country situations, trends in approval of biotech crops, and future prospects of the technology in the biotech crop growing countries and the world. ISAAA Brief is one of the most cited references in the field of modern agri-biotechnology due to its credibility and accuracy. Since the adoption of biotech crops in 1996, ISAAA has remained the single most prominent source of this information.

The year 2016 was momentous since for the first time, Nobel Laureates released a statement in support of biotechnology and condemning critics in their critical stance against the technology and Golden Rice. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, International Food and Policy Research Institute, the G20 countries and other like-minded bodies, guided by 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Agriculture have committed to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in 15 years or less. More importantly, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a review of 900 researches on biotech crops since 1996 and found that genetically modified crops and conventionally-bred crops have no difference in terms of probable risks to human health and the environment. Biotech crops have now had an unblemished record of safe use and consumption for over 20 years. Future generations can benefit more from wide choices of biotech crops with improved traits for high yield and nutrition as well as safe for food use and environment.

Highlights of the 2016 Adoption of Biotech Crops:

•     Biotech crop planting in 2016 resumes high adoption at 185.1 million hectares worldwide.

A year after the second decade of commercialization of biotech/GM crops in 2016, 26 countries grew 185.1 million hectares of biotech crops – an increase of 5.4 million hectares or 3% from 179.7 million hectares in 2015. Except for the 2015 adoption, this is the 20th series of increases every single year; and notably 12 of the 20 years were double-digit growth rates.


•     Biotech crops provide more diverse offerings to consumers in 2016

Biotech crops have expanded beyond the big four (corn, soybean, cotton, and canola) to give more choices for many of the world’s consumers. These biotech crops include sugar beet, papaya, squash, eggplant, potatoes that are already in the market, as well as apples which will be in the market in 2017. Potato is the fourth important staple crop in the world and eggplant is the number one vegetable consumed in Asia. Non-bruising and non-browning apples and potatoes can contribute to the reduction of food waste. Additionally, research done by public sector institutions include crops such as rice, banana, potato, wheat, chickpea, pigeon pea, mustard and sugarcane at advanced stages of evaluation, and are likely to provide even more diverse offerings to consumers, especially those in developing countries.

•     New biotech crops and traits in the pipeline for the benefit of farmers and consumers

It is noteworthy that new biotech crops and traits are being field tested to cater to farmers and consumers. These include among others, staple crops such as beta-carotene enriched Golden Rice being tested in the Philippines and Bangladesh; bunchy top virus resistant biotech banana in Uganda; Fusarium wilt resistant biotech banana and biotech wheat with disease resistance, drought tolerance, altered oil content and grain composition being field tested in Australia; high yield and biomass wheat in the United Kingdom; late blight resistant potato varieties Desiree and Victoria in Uganda and late blight and nematode resistant potato variety Maris Piper with less bruising and less acrylamide potato in the EU; insect resistant chickpea and pigeon pea, and biotech mustard which are staple vegetables and oil source, respectively, in India; drought tolerant sugarcane in India and Indonesia; and omega-3 enriched camelina in the EU.

•     Biotech crops increased ~110-fold from 1996, the fastest adopted crop technology in the world; accumulated hectarage at 2.1 billion hectares

Global hectarage of biotech crops has increased ~110-fold from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 185.1 million hectares in 2016 – this makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent times. An accumulated 2.1 billion hectares or 5.3 billion acres was achieved in 21 years (1996-2016) of biotech crop commercialization.

•     26 countries, 19 developing and 7 industrial countries grew biotech crops



The 185.1 million hectares of biotech crops were grown by 26 countries, of which 19 were developing and 7 industrial countries. Developing countries grew 54% (99.6 million hectares) of the global biotech crop area compared to 46% (85.5 million hectares) for industrial countries.

•     Biotech soybean reached 50% of global biotech crop hectarage

The four major biotech crops: soybean, maize, cotton, and canola, in decreasing area, were the most adopted biotech crops by 26 countries. The area planted to biotech soybean was the highest at 91.4 million hectares, which is 50% of the global hectarage of 185.1 million hectares for all biotech crops.  Although the soybean area only showed a marginal decrease of 1% from 2015 (92.7 million hectares), the area is still substantial at 91.4 million hectares. Based on the global crop hectarage for individual crops, 78% of soybean, 64% of cotton, 26% of maize and 24% of canola were biotech in 2016.

•     Stacked traits occupied 41% of the global hectarage, second to herbicide tolerance at 47%

Herbicide tolerance deployed in soybean, canola, maize, alfalfa, and cotton, has consistently been the dominant trait at 47% of the global hectarage. A declining trend on herbicide tolerant crops planted was observed with the rise of stacked traits (combined insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, and other traits). The area planted to herbicide tolerant crops was 86.5 million hectares in 2016, occupying 47% of the global biotech hectarage of 185.1 million hectares. On the other hand, area planted to stacked traits increased by 29% in 2016 at 75.4 million hectares from 58.4 million hectares in 2015. Stacked traits occupied 41% of the global biotech crop hectarage of 185.1 million hectares.


•     Of the top five countries growing 91% of biotech crops, three are developing countries (Brazil, Argentina, and India) and two are industrial (USA and Canada).

USA leads biotech crop planting in 2016 at 72.9 million hectares, followed by Brazil (49.1 million hectares), Argentina (23.8 million hectares), Canada (11.6 million hectares) and India (10.8 million hectares) (Table 1, Figure 1) for a total of 168.2 million hectares, 91% of the global hectarage.



USA continued to be the leader in the global commercialization of biotech crops since 1996. In 2016, 72.9 or ~73 million hectares were planted to major biotech crops: maize (35.05 million hectares), soybean (31.84 million hectares), cotton (3.70 million hectares), some areas of biotech crops: alfalfa (1.23 million hectares), canola (0.62 million hectares), and sugar beet (0.47 million hectares) and small areas of virus resistant papaya and squash (1,000 hectares each), and non-browning Innate™ potatoes (2,500 hectares). The USDA estimates indicate that the percentage adoption of the three principal biotech crops were at, or close to optimal adoption: soybean at 94% (same as 2015), maize 92% (same as 2015), and cotton 93% (lower by 1% in 2015) (USDA, NASS, 2016), for an average of 93%. The 2016 biotech crop area in the USA of ~73 million hectares is 39% of the global biotech area and 3% higher than the 2015 planting of 70.9 million hectares. The immediate increase of biotech/GM crop planted area in the USA in 2016 indicates that the 2015 slight decrease attributed to low commodity prices of maize and cotton was only temporary. Resumption of global prices and the active trade with countries for livestock feeds, food processing, and biofuel needs in 2016 put the US biotech crop adoption back on track with 3% increase from 2015.

Brazil retained its #2 world ranking after the US, with 49.1 million hectares of biotech crops planted, representing 27% of the global hectarage of 185.1 million hectares. Brazil’s total biotech crop hectarage of ~49.14 million hectares is an increase of 11%, from 2015 (44.2 million hectares), or 4.9 million hectares. This 4.9 million hectare increase was by far the highest increase in any country worldwide in 2016 making Brazil the engine of growth in biotech crops worldwide. Biotech crops planted include: ~32.7 million hectares biotech soybean; 15.7 million hectares of biotech maize (summer and winter maize); and ~0.8 million hectares of biotech cotton. The total planted area of these three crops in Brazil was estimated at 52.6 million hectares of which 49.14 million hectares or 93.4% was biotech. The adoption rate of 93.4% is a 2.7% increase in adoption compared to 2015 (90.7%). Similar to the U.S., adoption rates of the three major biotech crops are almost optimal at an average of 93.4%. IR/HT soybean Intacta™ has gained popularity among the farmers because of the savings in pesticide and the no-till technology, thus, the increased hectarages. The need for continuous and steady supply of maize for pork and livestock industry in the country may push farmers to plant more maize in 2017.


Argentina maintained its ranking as the third largest producer of biotech crops in the world in 2016, after the USA and Brazil, occupying 13% of global hectarage. The country planted 23.82 million hectares, 0.67 million hectares less than the 24.49 million hectares in 2015. Biotech crops in the country was comprised of 18.7 million hectares of biotech soybean, an all time high of 4.74 million hectares of biotech maize and a reduced cotton biotech area of 0.38 million hectares. The country had a slight decline in hectarages of biotech crops due largely to soybean and minimally with cotton due to global low cotton prices. The adverse weather condition was not conducive to wheat planting and affected the 2nd soybean planting after wheat. On the other hand, increased maize planting was mainly due to favorable weather conditions. With almost maximum adoption of biotech crops in Argentina of 97%, expansion of biotech crop commercialization can be achieved using new crops and traits.

Canada is fourth in world ranking of biotech crops, with an area of 11.55 million hectares, a 5% increase from 2015 of 10.95 million hectares, with an average adoption rate of 93%, similar to 2015. The four biotech crops grown in Canada in 2016 were canola (7.53 million hectares), soybean (2.08 million), maize (1.49 million), sugar beet (8,000 hectares with 100% adoption) and for the first time low lignin alfalfa (809 hectares). Total planting of these crops also increased by 5% from 11.74 million hectares (2015) to 12.38 million hectares. The country increased biotech crop planting following increases in total area of canola, soybean, and maize. Canola Council of Canada actively pursues its Strategic Plan of producing 26 MMT canola by 2025 through yield improvement technologies. Increase in soybean area is due to its profitability and high oilseed prices. For maize, increased gasoline and ethanol consumption due to lower gas prices provided incentive for maize planting.

India had a slight decrease (7%) in biotech cotton planting brought by a small reduction in the total cotton area (8%) in the 10 states of India. Adoption however increased from 95% to 96% indicative of acceptance by as much as 7.2 million farmers benefiting from the technology. Biosafety regulations in the country have been streamlined with revised guidelines on the monitoring of confined field trials of biotech crops. Biotech mustard expressing the barnase-barstar gene is under final review including public comments for environmental release in 2017. Mustard production and yields have remained stagnant for the past 20 years and the future introduction of the biotech mustard can potentially increase yield by as much as 25%, revive the mustard industry and be competitive with canola. Insect resistant chickpea and pigeon pea were approved for field trials by the government regulatory agency in 2016. India retained the title as the number one cotton-producing country in the world with cotton production surpassing 35 million bales despite the slowed down global cotton market.

•     Ten countries in Latin America grew ~80 million hectares of biotech crops 

Except for Chile and Costa Rica which continuously plant biotech crops for export, biotech crop countries in Latin America grew biotech crops for food, feed and processing. Brazil obtained the highest increase of 11% or 4.9 million hectares of biotech crops in 2016 and occupied 27% of the global biotech crop area. Intacta™ has gained popularity among farmers because of savings in pesticide and the no-till technology. Adoption rates of the three major biotech crops were almost optimum at an average of 93.4% in Brazil and Argentina. Total soybean and biotech plantings in Argentina and Bolivia were affected by severe drought. Moreover, in Paraguay, marginal decrease in soybean area was due to competition with maize planting to cater for the increasing demand of the expanding pork industry in the country. In Mexico, reduced soybean planting was due to conflicts resulting from negative propaganda for biotech crops. Biotech soybean and maize decreased in Uruguay due to lowered prices, higher production costs and positive policy developments for grain and soybean sector in Argentina. Lowered cotton prices also negatively affected Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia.


The possible expansion in the pork and livestock industry in Brazil may push farmers to plant more maize in 2017. New products waiting to be commercialized which are expected to impact the Brazilian economy are the biotech eucalyptus and virus resistant bean. In Argentina, the development of drought tolerant soybean which is now in testing stage will allow utilization of marginal areas affected by drought. Also, adoption of virus resistant potato will be beneficial to farmers in increasing yield and reduction of production cost. The area expansion in Paraguay and Colombia for total maize was due to the increasing expansion of the pork industry. This is likely to continue in the next few years with maize prices relatively higher due to demand from Brazil and Chile. Biotech maize adoption may also increase consequently. Countries affected by low global cotton prices may rebound back as soon as prices become stable, similar to maize which suffered low prices in the last two years. New biotech crops and traits that can withstand drought and other stress will be a welcome respite from the losses of the past years.

•     Eight countries in Asia and the Pacific grew ~18.6 million hectares of biotech crops

Biotech crops planted in the 8 biotech crop countries of Asia and the Pacific ranged from fiber (cotton), feed (maize and canola) and food (maize and eggplant). Adoption of these biotech crops varied in 2016: India and China’s biotech cotton planting were extremely affected by low global cotton prices, while Pakistan and Myanmar maintained their biotech cotton area. The area planted to biotech maize in the Philippines and Vietnam increased due to high demand for livestock and poultry feeds, as well as favorable weather conditions. In Australia, favorable weather conditions after two years of drought permitted increased planting of biotech cotton and canola. In addition, farmers were provided BollgardIII/RR®Flex cotton for extreme insect pest protection with herbicide tolerance. Bangladesh increased its Bt eggplant planting to 700 hectares and more brinjal varieties with Bt gene are being field tested for future commercialization.

There are still huge potential biotech maize areas in China, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines, as well as biotech cotton for Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines. In China, food and manufacturing industry considered potato as the fourth staple with renewed interest on its research, development and production. The upcoming biotech potatoes which are non-bruising, low acrylamide, lowered reducing sugar and late blight resistant, as well as beta-carotene enriched Golden Rice will help address malnutrition and hunger in Asia and the Pacific.

•     Four countries in the European Union continued to plant biotech maize at more than 136,000 hectares

Four countries in the EU (28) continued to plant biotech maize (IR maize event MON 810). In 2016, they were Spain with 129,081 hectares, Portugal (7,069 hectares), Slovakia (138 hectares) and Czechia (75 hectares) for a total of 136,363 hectares. Thus, a significant difference of 19,493 hectares or 17% increase from 116,870 in 2015 was achieved. The more than 95% of the total biotech maize in the EU was planted in Spain.  In Spain and Slovakia, increases in biotech maize planting were due to favorable farmers’ decision to plant insect resistant maize because of the devastating European corn borer infestation. In Portugal, in addition to the low market price of maize, drought spell affected the highest maize producing state, Alentejo. This resulted to a decline in total maize area and consequently the biotech maize area. In Czechia however, the continuing decline in biotech crop planting was due to the inconvenience of stringent reporting requirements for IR maize resulting in less incentive for farmers and all stakeholders seeking to capture the benefits offered by IR maize. This matter also affected Romania, which, similar to the other countries have opted to grow GM crops after the EU directive was issued in 2015. Thus, for 2016, there was no biotech maize planting in Romania.

Possible expansion of biotech crops in these countries includes the approval of new crops and traits that will address the recurring problem of corn borer infestation such as the various IR/HT maize technologies. In addition, drought tolerant maize available in the US and a product similar to the biotech maize with drought and insect resistant trait of the WEMA Project will benefit farmers in Portugal.

•     South Africa and Sudan had increased planting of biotech crops

By 2016, at least four countries had in the past placed a GM crop in the market – Burkina Faso, Egypt, South Africa, and Sudan. However, due to a temporary setback in Burkina Faso and Egypt, only South Africa and Sudan planted biotech crops at 2.8 million hectares. South Africa is one of the top ten countries planting more than 1 million hectares in 2016 and continued to lead the adoption of biotech crops in the African continent. Biotech maize, soybean and cotton area increased to 2.66 million hectares in 2016, a 16% increase from the 2.29 million hectares in 2015.

A new wave of acceptance is emerging in the continent. Three countries: Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria transitioned from research to granting environmental release approvals, while six others – Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Swaziland and Uganda made significant progress in moving towards completion of multi-location trials in readiness for considering commercial approval. Three of these crops – banana, cowpea and sorghum are new and primarily for food security. It is noteworthy that under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), Tanzania planted its first ever confined field trial of drought tolerant maize while Mozambique granted its first ever approval for a confined field trial of a stacked trait, an insect reistant and drought tolerant maize.

Status of approved events for biotech crops used in food, feed, and processing

Biotech crops were planted in small scale as early as 1994 and large scale plantings were recorded in 1996. From 1994 to 2016, a total of 40 countries (39 + EU – 28) have issued regulatory approvals to genetically modified crops for consumption either as food and/or feed as well as for environmental release. From these countries, 3,768 approvals have been issued by regulatory authorities across 26 GM crops (not including those for carnation, rose and petunia) and 392 GM events. Of these approvals, 1,777 are for food use (direct use or for processing), 1,238 are for feed use (direct use or for processing) and 753 are for environmental release or cultivation (Table 2). Maize still has the most number of approved events (218 in 29 countries), followed by cotton (58 events in 22 countries), potato (47 events in 11 countries), canola (38 events in 14 countries), and soybean (35 events in 28 countries).

The herbicide tolerant maize event NK603 (54 approvals in 26 countries + EU-28) still has the most number of approvals. It is followed by herbicide tolerant soybean GTS 40-3-2 (53 approvals in 27 countries + EU-28), insect resistant maize MON810 (52 approvals in 26 countries + EU-28), insect resistant maize Bt11 (50 approvals in 24 countries + EU-28), insect resistant maize TC1507 (50 approvals in 24 countries + EU-28), herbicide tolerant maize GA21 (49 approvals in 23 countries + EU-28), insect resistant maize MON89034 (48 approvals in 24 countries + EU-28),  herbicide tolerant soybean A2704-12 (42 approvals in 23 countries + EU-28),  insect resistant maize MON88017 (41 approvals in 22 countries + EU-28), insect resistant cotton MON531 (41 approval in 21 countries + EU-28), herbicide tolerant maize T25 (40 approvals in 20 countries + EU-28) and insect resistant maize MIR162 (40 approvals in 21 countries + EU-28).



Global value of the biotech seed market alone was US$15.8 billion in 2016.

In 2016, the global market value of biotech crops, estimated by Cropnosis was US$15.8 billion (up by 3% from US$15.3 billion in 2015); this represents 22% of the US$73.5 billion global crop protection market in 2016, and 35% of the US$45 billion global commercial seed market. The estimated global farm-gate revenues of the harvested commercial “end product” (the biotech grain and other harvested products) are more than ten times greater than the value of the biotech seed alone.

Contribution of biotech crops to food security, sustainability and climate change

Biotech crops contributed to food security, sustainability and climate change by:
•     increasing crop productivity 574 million tons valued at US$167.8 billion in 1996-2015; and 75 million tons valued at US$15.4 billion in 2015 alone;
•     conserving biodiversity in 1996 to 2015 by saving 174 million hectares, and 19.4 million hectares in 2015 alone;
•     providing a better environment
–    by saving 620 million kg. active ingredient (a. i.) of pesticides in 1996-2015, and by  37.4 million kg in 2015 alone;
–    by reducing pesticide applications, saving 8.1% in 1996-2015, and by 6.1% in 2015 alone;
–    by reducing EIQ (Environmental Impact Quotient) by 19% in 1996-2015, and by 18.4% in 2015 alone
•     reducing CO2 emissions in 2015 by 26.7 billion kg, equivalent to taking 11.9 million cars off the road for one year; and
•     helped alleviate poverty by helping 18 million small farmers, and their families totaling  >65 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world (Brookes and Barfoot, 2017, Forthcoming).

Thus, biotech crops can contribute to a “sustainable intensification” strategy favored by many science academies worldwide, which allows productivity/production to be increased only on the current 1.5 billion hectares of global crop land, thereby saving forests and biodiversity. Biotech crops are essential but are not a panacea and adherence to good farming practices, such as rotations and resistance management, are a must for biotech crops as they are for conventional crops.


Regulatory barriers holding back biotechnology’s benefits

Onerous regulation for transgenic crops remains the principal constraint to adoption, which is particularly important for many developing countries, denied the opportunity of using biotech crops to address food, feed, and fiber security. Opponents of GM crops are against  science-based regulation and are demanding onerous regulation that is denying poor farmers in the developing countries, as well as Europe’s access to the technologies. All these challenges are faced by farmers and technology developers  despite the overwhelming evidence in support of the safe use of these technologies. By using these technologies, small poor farmers will be able to survive and contribute to the doubling of food production to meet the needs of a growing population which will reach over 11 billion in 2100.

Future of Biotech Crops: A Game Changer

As biotech crops enter the third decade of planting/commercialization, game changing innovations are projected to revolutionize development of new biotech crops and traits. Firstly, the increasing adoption and appreciation by farmers of stacked traits; secondly, the advent of biotech crops and traits that not only cater to farmers agricultural needs but more so the preference and nutritional needs of consumers; and thirdly, the heightened utilization of innovative tools of gene discovery and their subsequent use in crop improvement and varietal development.

The first generation of biotech crops targeted input traits of herbicide tolerance, insect resistance and virus resistance where farmers and food producers benefited economic gains of 574 million tons valued at US$167.8 billion in 1996-2015. These benefits also provided accessible food and nutrition for the 7.4 billion global population. The second generation biotech crops include stacks of these traits, as well as drought tolerance – one of the problems related to climate change. Adoption of IR/HT soybean (Intacta™) and corn rootworm stacks for maize have been phenomenal with an economic benefit of US$2.4 billion in 2013-2015 and US$12.6 billion in 2003 to 2015, respectively (Brookes and Barfoot, 2017 Forthcoming).

Output traits for improved quality and composition were the traits of the third generation biotech crops geared towards consumer preference and nutrition. These include the various health-improving products of soybean for humans and animals (omega-3 fatty acids, high oleic acid, low phytate, and high stearic acid), modified starch/sugar (potato), low-lignin (alfalfa), non-browning potatoes which are already available; non-browning apples projected to be available in the US market in 2017; as well as beta-carotene and ferritin in major staple crops which are already in the advanced stages of development. It is noteworthy that Innate™ potato series have been commercialized successfully in the USA, with 2,500 hectares of potatoes and 70,000 non-browning apple trees (~81 hectares). Acceptance of these two biotech crops can contribute in the reduction of food waste due to browning and easy spoilage of products.

Innovative molecular biology tools are continuously being developed and tapped to discover new genes that would make food available, accessible and nutritious. Biotech products which are already in field testing and maybe released in the next few years reflect the increasing trends for various inputs and output traits for farmers and consumers. Staple crops such as rice, banana, potato, wheat, ryegrass, Indian mustard, chickpea, pigeon pea and sugarcane, among others were improved to contain new traits for insect and disease resistance, drought and stress tolerance, improved nutritional content, and yield and biomass among others.

The encouraging outlook is that technology, in conjunction with conducive policies can double food production. However, the doubling of food production cannot be realized by society unless it ensures that regulation of GM crops is science/evidence-based, fit for purpose, and to the extent possible harmonized globally. Failure by global society to ensure timely and appropriate regulation on food production will have dire consequences. On the one hand, the world will suffer because of inadequate food supplies, while on the other hand, the power of science and technology to produce a safe, adequate and assured supply of food for all mankind will be rejected because of the dominant ideological voices of the opponents of the new biotechnologies.


In 2016, global hectarage of biotech crops increased from 179.7 million hectares to 185.1 million hectares, a 3% increase equivalent to 5.4 million hectares. Predictions made by James, C. (2015) that the slight decline in biotech crop area in 2015 due to the low global commodity price would immediately reverse once crop prices revert to higher levels were realized – this is contrary to propaganda by critics that biotech crops are failing the farmers. Fluctuations in biotech crop hectarage of this order (both increases and decreases) are influenced by several factors. In 2016, these factors were: acceptance and commercialization of new products in the USA, Brazil and Australia; increasing demand for pork and livestock feeds in Brazil; needs for livestock and poultry feeds in Vietnam; favorable weather conditions and improved market price for maize in the Philippines and Honduras; need to address corn borer infestation in Spain and Slovakia; government’s strategic plan to harness biotechnology and improve economy in Canada; the lifting of the GM ban in West Australia; and consumers demand for more of the clean and healthy brinjal in Bangladesh. Biotech crop hectarage in Myanmar and Pakistan did not change, as in some smaller countries.

A few countries had decreased biotech crop planting due to global low cotton prices such as in Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico, and high cotton reserve stocks particularly in China and low cotton price in India; low profitability in soybean and competition with maize in Paraguay and Uruguay; environmental stress (drought/submergence) in soybean plantings in South Africa, Argentina and Bolivia; negative biotech perception in China as well as onerous reporting requirements in Czech Republic. Lastly, onerous requirements made farmers in Romania stop planting biotech crops in 2016.

Finally, biotech crops are here to stay and will continue benefiting the burgeoning population with new biotech crops and traits to cater to the needs of farmers and consumers alike. However, even after 21 years of successful commercialization of biotech crops, some challenges remain including:

•     First, the regulatory barriers that limit scientific innovation and restricts technology development that would have benefited farmers and consumers.

•     Second, the growing trade disruptions brought by asynchronous approvals and thresholds on low level presence in GM crop trading countries. Following the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, countries allow entry of only approved biotech events, and a threshold for unapproved events. Some countries have stringent or long process of approvals that cause problems if imported products contain unapproved events, especially in a stacked event. The report and analysis by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST, 2016) on the Impact of asynchronous approvals for biotech crops on agricultural sustainability, trade and innovation indicate that there are large volumes of trade worth billions of dollars at risk. A thorough research is needed to evaluate the global cost of asynchronous approvals and low level presence (LLP), the impacts of asynchrony on innovation and crop improvements, and the decision-making process of biotech developers, in both the public and private sectors. Timely research and possibly, an international dialogue on trade would inform policymaking and improve the design of policy instruments.

•     Third, the need for continuous dialogue among all stakeholders for the expeditious understanding and appreciation of biotechnology, emphasizing benefits and safety. Innovative communication modalities using social media and other forms of venues should be tapped and utilized effectively and immediately.

Overcoming these challenges is a daunting task that requires a cooperative partnership among the North and the South, East and West, and public and private sector. Only through partnerships can we be assured that nutritious and sufficient food will be readily available on the table, stable supply of feed for our poultry and livestock, and accessible clothing and shelter for everyone.

Dr. Clive James, founder and emeritus chair of ISAAA, has painstakingly authored the 20 annual reports ensuring the ISAAA Brief to be the most credible source of information on biotech crops in the last two decades. He has been a great advocate of the technology and biotech products following the footsteps of his great mentor and colleague the late Nobel Peace Laureate Norman Borlaug, who was also the founding patron of ISAAA. The 2016 ISAAA Brief continues this tradition of providing an up-to-date report on biotech products through information gathered from an expansive global network of biotechnology information centers and other partners.

For more information, visit ISAAA’s page at

ISAAA Brief 52-2016: Press Release

ISAAA Brief 52-2016: Press Release

Biotech/GM Crops Surge to a New Peak of 185.1 Million Hectares in 2016
Global Area Rebounds from 2015 as Farmers Continue to Adopt Biotech Crops

10674e-green-corn-field-hd-imageBeijing (May 4, 2017) – Today, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) released its annual report showcasing the 110-fold increase in adoption rate of biotech crops globally in just 21 years of commercialization – growing from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 185.1 million hectares in 2016. ISAAA’s report, “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016,” continues to demonstrate the long-standing benefits of biotech crops for farmers in developing and industrialized countries, as well as consumer benefits of recently approved and commercialized varieties.

“Biotech crops have become a vital agricultural resource for farmers around the world because of the immense benefits for improved productivity and profitability, as well as conservation efforts,” said ISAAA Chair of the Board, Paul S. Teng. “With the commercial approvals and plantings of new varieties of biotech potatoes and apples, consumers will begin to enjoy direct benefits of biotechnology with produce that is not likely to spoil or be damaged, which in turn has the potential to substantially reduce food waste and consumer grocery costs.”

Examining other benefits of biotechnology, ISAAA reports that the adoption of biotech crops has reduced CO2 emissions equal to removing approximately 12 million cars from the road annually in recent years; conserved biodiversity by removing 19.4 million hectares of land from agriculture in 2015; and decreased the environmental impact with a 19% reduction in herbicide and insecticide use.1 Additionally, in developing countries, planting biotech crops has 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.

“Biotechnology is one of the tools necessary in helping farmers grow more food on less land,” explained ISAAA Global Coordinator Randy Hautea. “However, the promises of biotech crops can only be unlocked if farmers are able to buy and plant these crops, following a scientific approach to regulatory reviews and approvals.”

As more varieties of biotech crops are approved and commercialized for use by farmers, ISAAA expects to see adoption rates continue to climb and to benefit farmers in developing countries. For example, among African nations where regulatory processes have traditionally created barriers to biotech crop adoption rates, advances are being realized. In 2016, South Africa and Sudan increased the planting of biotech maize, soybean and cotton to 2.66 million hectares from 2.29 million hectares in 2015. Elsewhere on the continent, a new wave of acceptance is emerging as Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Swaziland and Uganda make advances in regulatory review and commercial approvals for a variety of biotech crops.

“Even with a long history of regulatory barriers, African farmers continue to adopt biotech crops because of the value they are realizing from the stability and productivity of biotech varieties,” said Hautea. “As more countries move forward with regulatory reviews for crops such as bananas, cowpeas and sorghum, we believe biotech crop plantings will continue to grow in Africa and elsewhere.”

Also in 2016, Brazil increased biotech area of maize, soybean, cotton and canola by a remarkable 11% – maintaining its ranking as the second largest producer of biotech crops after the United States. In Brazil, biotech soybeans account for 32.7 million hectares of the 91.4 million hectares grown worldwide.

For 2016, ISAAA also reports that there were improvements in the commercialization and plantings of biotech fruits and vegetables with direct consumer benefits. These included the commercial approvals of the Innate™ Russet Burbank Gen 2 potatoes that were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for sale in the United States and the Simplot Gen 1 White Russet™ brand potatoes that were approved by Health Canada for fresh market sale in Canada. These biotech potato varieties have lower levels of asparagine, which reduces the creation of acrylamide during high-heat cooking. Additionally, the first commercially saleable quantities of Arctic® Apples were harvested in 2016, stored over the winter and are projected to be sold in U.S. grocery stores in 2017.
Additional highlights from ISAAA’s 2016 report include:

  • Global area rebounded in 2016 with 185.1 million hectares of biotech crops versus 179. 7 million hectares 2015, when global area for all crops was down, and 181.5 million hectares in 2014.
  • In 2016, 26 countries in total, including 19 developing and 7 industrial countries, grew biotech crops. Developing countries grew 54% of biotech crops, compared to 46% for industrial nations.
  • Eight countries in Asia and the Pacific, including China and India, grew 18.6 million hectare of biotech crops in 2016.
  • 10 countries in Latin America, including Paraguay and Uruguay, grew a combined 80 million hectares of biotech crops in 2016.
  • In 2016, the leading countries growing biotech crops continued to be represented by the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India. Combined, these five countries planted 91% of the global biotech crop area.
  • Four countries in Europe — Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic  Slovakia — grew more than 136,000 hectares of biotech maize in 2016, an increase of 17% from 2015, reflecting EU’s need for insect resistant maize.
  • Biotech crops with stacked traits accounted for 41% of global area, second only to herbicide tolerance at 47%.
  • Biotech soybean varieties accounted for 50% of global biotech crop area. Based on global area for individual crops, 78% of soybean, 64% of cotton, 26% of maize and 24% of canola planted in the world were biotech varieties.
  • Countries with over 90% adoption of biotech soybean are U.S.A, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, and Uruguay; close to or over 90% adoption of biotech maize are USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, and Uruguay; over 90% of biotech cotton are USA, Argentina, India, China, Pakistan, South Africa, Mexico, Australia, and Myanmar; and with 90% or more of biotech canola are USA and Canada.

For more information or the executive summary of the report, visit

1Brookes and Barfoot, 2017, Forthcoming

For more information, visit ISAAA’s page at

All in the name of food security

PRESIDENTIAL Proclamation 1414, signed in 2007, stipulates “the policy of government to promote safe and responsible use of modern biotechnology and its products as one of the several means to achieve and sustain food security, equitable access to health and services, sustainable and safe environment and industry development.”

Biotechnology, coined by Hungarian agricultural economist Karl Erchy by combining the two words, “bio [from biology]” and technology, is considered as a possible solution to the impending wave of hunger the world will be facing in the future.

Referring to that brance of science, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug commented: “I [can] now say that the world has the technology—either available or well-advance in the research pipeline—to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use this new technology.”

The tools used in biotechnology include gene cloning, tissue culture, microbial culture, DNA-marker technology and genetic engineering. The latter is the most controversial as, it is the method used in developing genetically modified organisms.

To a nonscientist, biotechnology is too hard to understand. But for an American scientist like Frank A. Shotkoski, it is as easy as eating fried chicken or drinking lemon juice. Ask him anything about it, and he will not deviate from the subject.

Currently, he maintains an adjunct professor position at Cornell University in the College of Life Science Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics. He originally joined the university in 2005 as Director of Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII), where he directed several biotechnology commercialization projects in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa. The program ended in November 2016, but he is still working pro bono on the projects in Indonesia and Bangladesh.

Biotech as boon

“I see biotechnology as an important component of the many technologies and choices that we have available to provide food security, human nutrition and health for an ever-expanding population,” Shotkoski said in an exclusive interview. “This is especially important for agriculture, where farmers are faced with many biotic and abiotic constraints, most of which can’t be dealt with using conventional technologies.”

The man knows what he is talking about. He has worked in both agricultural and medical technology and biotechnology all of his professional career. He has witnessed and experienced the benefits of biotechnology firsthand and understood well the potential future benefits to mankind that will come from this technology.

What makes Shotkoski a credible source of information when it comes to biotechnology is that he has been directly involved in the development and commercialization of two important products of genetic engineering.

It was in Bogor, Indonesia, where we had the pleasure of meeting Shotkoski. He was one of the invited speakers for the biotechnology workshop for Asian journalists. It was there we learned he had been to the Philippines several times already. In fact, he is happily married to a Filipina, Anna Marie Jensen (more popularly known as Francine Prieto).

It was in 2005 that he first came to the Philippines. As the newly appointed director of ABSPII, he visited the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB). “I spent most of my time in Los Baños working with our research team on the bacillus thuringiensis talong, ringspot virus-resistant papaya and multivirus-resistant tomato projects. I was very impressed with the professionalism of the staff and students regarding their work and dedication to the project. [And also] by their willingness to enjoy an active social life,” he recalled.

Loving the Philippines

Shotkoski finds Filipinos as his kind of people: They work hard, he said, “And they play hard!”

Aside from the people, what made him attracted to the Philippines is the natural beauty of the country. “The fantastic beaches, ocean adventures, cultural uniqueness, affordability and interesting food,” he said.

Now, going back to biotechnology. According to him, he became interested in science and technology at a quite young age. “I still remember as far back as kindergarten, our teacher showed the class a drawing of a crop duster plane spraying a crop field with insecticide,” he recalled. “The next page had a drawing of an ominous-looking grasshopper [which was] even larger than the plane from the previous drawing. The teacher went on to explain to us that because of the indiscriminate use of pesticides, we were creating superbugs that could survive the pesticide applications.”

“In my mind, I envisioned those large mutant grasshoppers knocking the crop duster planes out of the air and killing the pilots. I decided then that something had to be done about the bad situation, and it stuck with me until now. Of course, I later learned more about pesticide toxicology and the development of resistance,” he related.

The young Shotkoski grew up on a working farm in Nebraska, where people grew corn, alfalfa, sorghum and other row crops. “I was well aware of the production constraints associated with insect pests, diseases and weeds, as well as the extreme labor and intensive work involved in controlling and managing these problems,” he said. “I was convinced that there had to be an easier way to make a living on the farm.”

-Written by Henrylito D. Tacio in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.

Was 2016 Really A Good Year For Agricultural Biotechnology?

We write to offer a dissenting opinion to that in a Forbes op-ed, “GMOs Have Had A Good 2016, But Teachable Moments Lie Ahead.” In contrast to that rosy take, we believe the food industry (in the broad sense) continues to fail to appreciate the nature of the opposition to GMOs, and thus continues to fail adequately to defend itself in the face of serious negative developments, which it also fails to appreciate.

The op-ed said 2016 was a good year because Congress passed a law preempting states from meddling with mandatory food labeling for genetically modified foods; the New York Times “corrected” itself by printing a “pro” article following a “con” article on the subject; the National Academy of Sciences came out with (yet another) favorable report reaffirming safety of genetically modified foods; the press has been generally positive about CRISPR; and President Obama said that policies must “follow the science.”

But looking a little deeper, a different picture emerges. Congress did not need to pass a labeling bill, a redundant move precipitated by anti-GMO lobbyists having pushed through a clearly unconstitutional law in Vermont. The New York Times’ editors disregarded an avalanche of expert criticism and responded by raising the status of the “con” article to an editor’s pick. The National Academy report wrongly stated there is a lack of yield benefits from using GMO seeds, a claim contradicted by the papers it cited.  And President Obama’s defense of GMOs was tepid at best, while his administration overall had a poor record when it comes to following the science on GMOs.

And let’s also consider some items the rosy view left out:

  • The Non-GMO Project now certifies over 36,000 products.
  • The organic food community forbade the use of plants and animals improved through CRISPR (the current organic prohibition of GMOs and supporting propaganda campaign have been key factors leading to current public skepticism about GMO safety).
  • The possibility of state label requirements in the United States was laid to rest, but now countries around the world have passed or are considering unfounded labeling laws, thus ensuring that multiple labels will be needed anyway for most exported products.
  • Sonoma County, California passed a GMO ban of dubious significance (the major, legal crops in the county are not yet GM); and Boulder County, Colorado ignored expert testimony and the pleas of its own farmers, to embrace an ideological rejection of 20th-century agriculture contradicted by its own internal review and condemned by the local paper.
  • The New York State Parent Teacher (NYS PTA) organization abandoned  the state’s proud history of leadership and achievement in education to adopt a profoundly misinformed resolution stating that “Until GMO and GE food safety is conclusively supported by good science, NYS PTA proposes acting with caution and keeping these products out of school-provided food and drinks.” The NYS PTA somehow managed to miss that the verdict of science has long been clear on this issue, and regularly reaffirmed, despite persistent denial by some ideologues.
  • The Obama administration’s regulatory reform efforts have so far simplified nothing, and instead have proposed more worrisome regulations that would disincentivize innovation and expand scientifically indefensible regulation to gene-edited and CRISPR-derived products.
  • Compared to the larger numbers of years past, only two genetically modified food products were “deregulated” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a potato and an apple, suggesting the major players are giving up hope of ever getting new transgenic products approved.
  • Major export markets for U.S. genetically modified crops are moving in the wrong direction on this issue, including a new labeling law in Korea (third-largest importer of U.S. corn), a ban on GMOs in school lunches in Taiwan (the fifth-largest market for U.S. corn and sixth-largest for U.S. soybeans) and a new requirement for an (undefined) environmental health risk assessment in the Philippines (the largest market for U.S. soybean meal).

The opposition to GMOs transcends borders. Several weeks ago, the inmates ran the asylum agenda at the Biodiversity Convention/Biosafety Protocol meeting called MOP8 in Cancún, México. Established in 1992 to preserve the world’s biodiversity, the Convention’s self-declared greatest accomplishment has been to establish an international treaty to protect biodiversity from GMOs. Of all the substantial threats to biodiversity, GMOs are simply not on the list, and to the extent their higher yields help reduce the pressure to convert more wild lands to agriculture, they are in fact a clear boon. Nevertheless, anti-science NGOs attempted to force adoption of a dysfunctional environmental risk assessment guide that, despite being 10 years in the making, disregards decades of experience and mountain ranges of data. At the same meeting there were demands to place moratoria on synthetic biology, gene drives and editing techniques that hold high promise to address some of the gravest threats to biodiversity in the world. These counterproductive attempts fell short, this time, but make no mistake: They will be back. And, if GMOs are any precedence, most countries will nevertheless ban these new technologies based on the premise they do not know how to properly regulate them.

The cooler heads that prevailed at MOP8 did not prevail in Washington. On December 27, the EPA closed the year by releasing the recommendations of its scientific advisory panel for the regulation of RNAi. While GMO RNAi is considered to be one of the safest control measures ever developed, the EPA panel ignored everything that is known about plant genomes and toxicology, and came out with a series of cost-prohibitive, non-science-based recommendations guaranteed to prevent most products from ever reaching the marketplace, and thus another promising technology faces an imminent crib death.

As to the op-ed’s teachable moment that “[t]he promise of GMOs is abundant, but without clear facts that connect with people’s values, it can be lost in the din of simplistic, polarizing arguments. It is up to science communicators, health professionals, journalists and educators to cut through the clutter,” (emphasis added) we disagree profoundly.

We believe the primary responsibility for such education lies with the purveyors of genetically modified products. While the technology providers (a.k.a. biotech seed companies) have mounted several efforts, they have been hampered by messengers that are inherently not credible to the consumers that most need to be reached; it doesn’t matter how good the material is if the source is dismissed as unreliable before he/she says a word. Where have the food companies been? It is their brands most directly being attacked following a script laid down years ago for a massive propaganda campaign sustained over many years. Why have they not defended the use of the safest ingredients in history, developed with the most precise, predictable, efficient and safe breeding techniques in history, thereby safeguarding their own future freedom to innovate and to operate? The data are spectacularly one-sided in their favor; all they need to do is tell the story.

Quite frankly, while we will defend the technology all we can, why should we defend an industry that will not speak up for itself, and whose members are tripping over each other to tout their new GMO-free products? Instead, food industry actions continue to complicate and negate the work of communicators, health professionals, journalists and educators.

Last year was not, however, a complete bust. The opposition special interests are more and more being seen with clear eyes, which is the essential first step towards resisting their propaganda. But if 2016 was a good year, let us hope we are spared any more like it.

-Written by Wayne Parrot and Val Giddings in Forbes.  See original article link here.  Dr. Parrot is a professor at University of Georgia. Dr. Giddings is senior fellow at Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.