WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 18, 2007) – Global acceptance of biotech crops increased in 2006, with global biotech crop acreage reaching 252 million acres in 22 countries according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Global biotech crop acreage increased more than 13 percent from 2005, when 222 million acres of biotech crops were grown in 21 countries. A recent study by PG Economics found that biotech crops have cumulatively increased farm income by $27 billion over the last decade.
“Since their introduction more than a decade ago, the acceptance of biotech crops continues to grow,” said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). “This is evident in the rising number of acres of biotech crops planted each year — and the increasing number of farmers who have chosen this technology because of the tremendous value biotech crops deliver to an abundant, healthful, and affordable food supply. A record 10.3 million farmers are growing biotech crops in 22 countries – that’s a 21 percent increase in the number of farmers who have adopted this technology since 2005.”
Notably, the developing world continues to adopt biotech crops aggressively. ISAAA reports that more than 9.3 million small, resource-poor farmers in 11 countries grew biotech crops in 2006, a 9.4 percent increase from 2005. As former President Bill Clinton observed in a keynote speech at the BIO 2006 International Convention, agricultural biotechnology for “poor farmers in developing countries is a good thing.” Agricultural biotechnology enables “more people to be able to grow their own food and feed themselves.”
This past year also showed record domestic acceptance of biotech crops according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), with biotech crop acreage in the United States increasing in 2006 by 9.6 percent over 2005. In 2006, U.S. acreage of biotech soybean increased by more than 6 percent, to a total of 66.68 million acres, or 89 percent of all soybeans grown in this country. American farmers planted 12.68 million acres of biotech cotton in 2006, representing 83 percent of all cotton grown in the United States (an increase from 11.25 million acres planted in 2005). Plantings of biotech corn in the United States significantly increased in 2006 by nearly 14 percent to 48.4 million acres.
The continued acceptance of biotech crops demonstrates the benefits American farmers recognize from choosing biotechnology. A May 2006 report from the University of Arizona found that Bt cotton reduces the level of pesticide applications while increasing overall crop yields. For the third consecutive year, studies by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy (NCFAP) showed the benefits of growing biotech crops. NCFAP concluded that in 2005, biotech crops improved crop production by 8.3 billion pounds, reduced production costs by $1.4 billion, and increased farmer revenue by $2.0 billion. Additionally, American growers reduced pesticide applications by 69.7 million pounds by planting biotech crops.
2006 also saw the introduction of key regulatory guidelines for plant and animal biotechnology, both in the United States and internationally. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published guidelines concerning adventitious presence as a way to ensure food safety for consumers, farmers, food processors, and grain handlers. Adventitious presence (AP) is the unintentional and incidental commingling of trace amounts of one type of seed, grain, or food product with another. The United States’ science-based policies on adventitious presence helped provide a model for the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international food standards body. In November, Codex agreed to develop an internationally accepted food safety risk assessment for adventitious presence.
The publication of FDA’s draft risk assessment on animal cloning stood as a significant domestic regulatory milestone for animal biotechnology. The draft risk assessment found that milk and meat products from animal clones and their offspring are safe for human consumption. As a new assisted reproductive technology, cloning can consistently produce healthier animals and a healthful meat and milk supply. FDA’s draft risk assessment is consistent with numerous scientific studies, including two reports by the National Academy of Sciences, that have found the food from animal clones and their offspring to be safe. Globally, animal cloning may provide people in developing countries with greater access to protein-rich animal food products, which will increase community health and well-being.
Increasing Global Acceptance of Agricultural Biotechnology
In 2006, according to the ISAAA report, a record 22 countries planted biotech crops including six countries in the European Union. As acreage in the European Union continues to increase, there has also been continued recognition of the safety of biotech plants. In 2006, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found biotech potatoes and a variety of biotech corn to be safe for human consumption and the environment.
Last year, the European Commission approved the first pharmaceutical product manufactured with ingredients derived from biotech goats. The drug’s ingredients include proteins from the milk of biotech goats. The pharmaceutical treats the rare blood-clotting disorder antithrombin deficiency. The product is expected to enter the marketplace in 2007.
In addition to the increase in global biotech acreage and continued acceptance of the technology, in September 2006 the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute settlement panel determined that the European Union (EU) did in fact impose a de facto moratorium on approvals of new biotech crops. The dispute settlement panel affirmed that agricultural biotechnology regulatory systems must be based on science, and risk assessments must be conducted in a timely manner. The ruling also confirms that international trading rules clearly apply to agricultural products of modern biotechnology.
Continued Research in Plant and Animal Biotechnology
This past year also saw important biotech developments with consumer benefits, including:
· The development of biotech stone fruit trees that are resistant to plum pox virus.
· Studies of biotech pigs with increased heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
· Research into prion protein-free cows that are resistant to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
In addition to these research and development projects, scientists continued to increase their understanding and knowledge of plants and animals through genome sequencing projects. In 2006, researchers announced genome sequencing projects for hogs, wheat, cassava plants, and other economically important crop plants such as potatoes and poplars. More, researchers published the genomes for apples, the western honey bee, the cottonwood tree, and Citrus Tristeza Virus (CTV), one of the largest threats to worldwide citrus production.
Biotechnology Supports Rapid Development in Biofuel Production from Agriculture
President George W. Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address, in which he noted that “America is addicted to oil,” drew increased attention to biofuels as a renewable energy resource. Major provisions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act — including a Renewable Fuel Standard calling for four billion gallons of domestically produced biofuel and the elimination of methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) as an additive to gasoline — came into effect at the beginning of the year. In response, ethanol production facilities increased production of ethanol to 4.9 billion gallons in 2006. Within the next two years, planned growth will double production capacity of ethanol to more than 10 billion gallons.
“Biotechnology has had a significant impact on agriculture,” said Greenwood. “It has changed the way farmers and livestock producers raise crops in the field and animals in the barnyard, while providing growers with a competitive edge in today’s marketplace.
“Agricultural biotechnology will continue to give growers added benefits to enhance the productivity and yield of energy crops and create new biofuels such as ethanol from cellulose. Soon farmers will be able to harvest and sell two crops from every field — a food crop and a biomass energy crop.”
BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and 31 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. www.bio.org
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