As demand for corn and other crops continues to grow, farmers are meeting the challenge through the use of biotech crop varieties. Producing higher yields and alleviating stressors, the scientifically designed crops are growing in popularity the world over as farmers see firsthand their many advantages.
"Biotechnology has helped me produce more corn more consistently," said South Dakota farmer Chad Blindauer, chair of the National Corn Growers Association's Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team. "It has helped me become a better farmer, a more efficient farmer, and I believe that is why we've seen biotech crops adopted at such a rapid rate not only here in the United States, but in a couple dozen countries around the world."
In 2010, just 15 years after the first biotech crops were commercialized, farmers in 29 countries planted and produced biotech crops on 366 million acres, according to a report published earlier this year by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.
Growth remains strong, with biotech acreage increasing by 34.6 million acres, or roughly 10 percent, between 2009 and 2010 according to ISAAA report author Clive James. He explained that this was the second highest annual acreage growth ever for biotech crops.
The report noted that the United States leads the way in acres planted at 165 million in 2010, followed by Brazil (63 million), Argentina (57 million), India (23 million), Canada (22 million), China (9 million), Paraguay (6 million), Pakistan (6 million), South Africa (5 million) and Uruguay (3 million).
While the United States has been a leading adopter of biotech crops - reaching 94 percent of soybeans, 90 percent of cotton and 88 percent of corn acres this year - other countries, including Brazil, are expediting approvals of biotech crops. Brazil approved eight traits in 2010 alone, including approving one before the United States.
"While U.S. farmers have led the way in adopting biotech crops, it's safe to say other countries and regions are catching up," Blindauer said. "As more people understand firsthand the benefits of biotechnology, we'll only see that accelerate. This will make it important for more countries to have sound regulatory systems in place to help ensure a reliable flow of grain, feed and food to those around the world who need it."