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Global area of biotech crops sees 67-fold jump in 12 years.

TOKYO, March 8 Kyodo

The global area of farmland where genetically modified crops are grown witnessed a 67-fold jump to 114.3 million hectares in the 12 years through 2007, according to a report recently released by a U.S. nonprofit organization.

''In 2007, the number of countries planting biotech crops increased to 23, and comprised 12 developing countries and 11 industrial countries,'' the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications said in the report.

Genetically engineered crops have drawn criticism from various consumer groups that they may pose hazards to both human health and the ecosystem.

But farmers chiefly in emerging economies like India and China and developing nations are increasingly placing priority on raising their productivity by taking advantage of biotech crops' enhanced resilience to pests, diseases and irregular climate conditions, greater yields and their ability to reduce dependence on herbicides.

In 1996, when four countries began producing biotech crops on a commercial basis, the global area of biotech crops was limited to 1.67 million hectares with the four being Argentina, Australia, Canada and the United States, the report said.

But in 2007, the corresponding area accounted for 8 percent of the total area of farmland across the world.

Eight of the 23 countries grow on more than 1 million hectares each, with the eight being, in order of hectarage, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, China, Paraguay and South Africa, the report said.

The United States provides the top world ranking with 57.7 million hectares, with the figure representing about 50 percent of the global biotech area.

Japan, which has opted to avoid producing biotech crops on a commercial basis, imports them as human food and animal feed.

Paul Schickler, a vice president of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., a proponent of the use of biotechnology in the agriculture field, has suggested that higher crop yields stemming from greater use of genetically engineered crops enable the international community to counteract burgeoning upward pressure on crop prices.

The report noted that biotech corn has been increasingly used as material for biofuel.

The biotech soybean area accounts for 51 percent of the combined area for all types of biotech crops, with the corresponding ratio for corn being 31 percent and that for cotton 13 percent.

The ratio of the biotech soybean area to overall soybean area currently stands at 64 percent, followed by cotton with the corresponding ratio of 43 percent and then by corn with 24 percent.

Biotech crops have generated accumulated economic benefits totaling $34 billion, it said. The importation of biotech crops has been authorized by a total of 29 countries, including Japan and New Zealand.

Seven types of biotech crops are on the Japanese market, including soybeans, potatoes, rapeseed and sugar beets.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Mar 9, 2008
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