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CHARTS: World's GMO Crop Fields Could Cover the US 1.5 Times Over

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- 1910 days ago -
Despite persisting concerns over genetically modified crops, a new industry report (PDF) shows that GMO farming is taking off around the world.

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JL A (281)
Wednesday February 27, 2013, 10:08 am

Mother Jones
CHARTS: World's GMO Crop Fields Could Cover the US 1.5 Times Over
Despite superweeds and contamination concerns, genetically modified crops are at an all-time high, says a new industry report.

By Jaeah Lee | Tue Feb. 26, 2013 3:06 AM PST

Despite persisting [1] concerns [2] over [3] genetically modified crops, a new industry report (PDF [4]) shows that GMO farming is taking off around the world. In 2012, GMO crops grew on about 420 million acres of land in 28 countries worldwide, a record high according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, an industry trade group.

If all the world's GMO crop fields in 2012 were sown together, it would blanket almost all of Alaska. As the chart from the report shows, globally GMO farming has been on an uninterrupted upward trend. What's especially noteworthy is the growth of GMO farming area in developing nations (see red line), which surpassed that in industrial nations for the first time in 2012. The ISAAA's report doesn't project into the future, but we may see this upward trend continue as "a considerable quantity and variety" of GMO products may be commercialized in developing countries within the next five years, according to a recent UN Food and Agriculture Organisation forum (PDF [5]).

Clive James/ISAAA [6]

The ISAAA says the area of land devoted to genetically modified crops has ballooned by 100 times since farmers first started growing the crop commercially in 1996. Over the past 17 years, millions of farmers in 28 countries have planted and replanted GMO crop seeds on a cumulative 3.7 billion acres of land—an area 50 percent larger than the total land mass of the United States, the group adds.

"This makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent history," ISAAA chair Clive James states in the report. "The reason—it delivers benefits."

What kinds of benefits? According to the ISAAA, GMO farming has reduced use of pesticides, saved on fossil fuels, decreased carbon dioxide emissions, and "made a significant contribution to the income of < 15 million small resource-poor farmers" in developing countries. These small-scale farmers now make up over 90 percent of all farmers growing GMO crops, the group states.

But just looking at the United States—consistently the biggest GMO crop producer in the world by a long shot—there is much reason to doubt on some of ISAAA's claimed benefits. (More after the chart.)

As my colleague Tom Philpott reported [1] earlier this month, nearly half of all US farms now have superweeds [2] that can resist Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, which is sprayed on crops engineered by Monsanto. A 2012 study [7] by Washington State University showed that overall, GMOs lead to a net increase in pesticide inputs. And a Department of Agriculture-funded paper out this month found that genetically modified doesn't necessarily mean higher crop yields (PDF [8]), one of GMOs' biggest selling points.

There's been some doubt about the wisdom of GMOs in the rest of the world, too. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has pointed out (PDF [9]) some of the downsides of GMOs for small farmers and consumers, such as pest resistance, contamination of non-GMO crops, and potential toxicity of GM foods and products. According to the FAO, in 2011, 161 countries ratified the Cartagena Protocol [10] on Biosafety, an international agreement designed to ensure the safe transfer and handling of GMO crops "that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focusing on transboundary movements."
"For peasant farmers, GMOs represent looting and control."

Back in January, more than 60,000 Mexican small-scale farmers marched through Mexico City in protest against Monsanto [11], Latin American news site Voxxi reported. The company has been trying to obtain unrestricted permission to plant its genetically modified corn in the country. The farmers fear that widespread planting of the modified corn will contaminate native breeds. "For peasant farmers, GMOs represent looting and control," Olegario Carrillo, president of the Mexican small farm organization UNORCA said at the protest.

As the FAO notes, in most cases these GM technologies are proprietary, developed by the private sector and released for commercial production through licensing agreements. Adoption of GM technologies has also spurred a range of social and ethical concerns about restricting access to genetic resources and new technologies, loss of traditions (such as saving seeds), private-sector monopoly, and loss of income of resource-poor farmers. There's also reason to worry about legal battles. Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a 2007 case Monsanto filed a against Vernon Hugh Bowman, a 75-year-old Indiana farmer. Bowman, Monsanto claims, violated the corporation's patent rights by buying and planting second-generation Roundup Ready seeds, which Monsanto contractually forbids. (Mother Jones' Maggie Severns has more on this here [3].)

Nonetheless, by ISAAA's count, developing countries show no signs of slowing their adoption GMO crop technologies. In 2012 they surpassed industrial countries in their share of the world's GMO crops, the group reports.

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Dianne Lien (77)
Wednesday February 27, 2013, 11:48 am
I am one of the believers that GMO/E is an issue that is already a done deal. Time will tell the truth.

Melania P (122)
Wednesday February 27, 2013, 12:57 pm
It seems there is no going back.....

JL A (281)
Wednesday February 27, 2013, 1:23 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Melania because you have done so within the last day.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday February 27, 2013, 2:00 pm
Dont think anything will be done about it now It seems its the way to go

noted thanks

Tamara Hayes (185)
Wednesday February 27, 2013, 2:15 pm
Are people really in that much of a hurry to get sick? For every single GMO there is a naive person willing to consume it. It all of those people came together and stood up against GMO's, we could really start a revolution. Yeah, I must be dreaming again. Thanks J.L.

JL A (281)
Wednesday February 27, 2013, 2:19 pm
You are welcome Carol and Tamara. Perhaps the grassroots of that revolution are starting Tamar.
You cannot currently send a star to Carol because you have done so within the last day.

Gloria picchetti (304)
Wednesday February 27, 2013, 3:28 pm
We are in trouble!

Spam flagged.

Elizabeth M (65)
Wednesday February 27, 2013, 3:29 pm
I hope we keep fighting here in Canada ~ although many of crops have been ruined as far as I am concerned with the planting of GMO's. Our farmer's used to save seed. Now there is the worry of super weeds that are inside a field and will have to sprayed with pesticides. If they don't get us one way they do by another. 2-4-D was banned in Canada sometime in the 1980's and now I suppose they will start using it again. Well we still have many organic farmers (they may be small-but the numbers are growing because of demand).

Julian Robert Gonzalez (112)
Wednesday February 27, 2013, 6:54 pm
God help us. Stop this GMO madness. While we are at it stop forcing drugs down our children's throats. Stop the poisons everywhere now.

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday February 27, 2013, 8:45 pm
Amen Julian! Thx JL. I for one still refuse to live with that horror which has not yet fully taken over here, fortunately.

JL A (281)
Thursday February 28, 2013, 7:43 am
You are welcome Angelika.You cannot currently send a star to Angelika because you have done so within the last day.

Mit Wes (2)
Saturday March 2, 2013, 7:27 am
"Adoption of GM technologies has also spurred a range of social and ethical concerns about restricting access to genetic resources and new technologies, loss of traditions..."

Restircting access to new technologies? You mean those GMOs? But, but, you're advocating no access to them at all !

And loss of traditions? But if saving seeds is such a great tradition for the particular farmer, why don't they simply choose not to buy GM seeds. And why pick on only the saving seed tradition. What about the hooking up the oxen to the plow tradition? Let's get rid of all combines and tractors! After, all Big Deere and Big Cat have a monopolistic control over such machines ! This also led to the loss of income to resource poor oxen breeders.

And Bowman? Well, there's a farmer who hates GMO's so much that he went out and stole them for planting for years on end. With hate like that, who needs love ? Which brings up the question as to why farmers keep choosing GMO's to plant over their non-gmo counterparts? Farmers would've quickly noticed if they were losing money from doing so. Or, is MJ alleging that farmers are stupid?

And, as far as monopolistic control. They don't have it. They have patent control. Patents run out. After that, anyone is then free to copy the tech.

Sergio Padilla (65)
Saturday March 9, 2013, 11:30 am
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