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GM crops stalled in 2016
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
Genetically Manipulated (GM) crops grew on less than 13% of global cropland in 2016. Presented by GMWatch (gmwatch.org), the information provided by Gene Ethics Director Bob Phelps (geneethics.org) and the latest report by the ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications) chart developments in GM agriculture across the world as some countries ban GM, some are reducing GM and some are embracing GM technology.
GM crop production stagnating
According to the Director of Gene Ethics (promoting a GM-free Australia), two countries that grew GM crops in 2015 planted none in 2016. This meant a reduction in GM countries worldwide to 26 and, with around 90% of all GM crops grown in eight North and South American countries, GM agriculture is far from being a global industry.
Most GM crops - soy, corn, canola, cotton and sugarbeet - still contain only the two GM crop traits first released in 1996, namely Roundup weed killer tolerance and Bt insect toxins.
More complex traits like drought and salt tolerance; nitrogen fixation in grains, more nutritious foods and higher yields were long promised but never delivered.
After growing 400,000 ha of GM cotton in 2015, Burkina Faso banned GM cotton last year because poor fibre quality had ruined the country's reputation for a high-quality product. In Romania, that used to be one of Europe's major producers of GM crops, just one farmer grew 2.5 ha of commercial GM maize in 2015 and the country is about to impose a farmer-driven GM food ban. From 1 May this year farmers in China's top grain growing province in the north-east will not be allowed to produce GM crops. In China as a whole, low cotton prices and high stocks triggered a 24% drop in GM crop plantings. Other countries have registered falls in GM crop production too. Bt cotton cultivation fell markedly in India in 2016 due to pest problems. Only 18 million broad-acre farmers grew GM commodities for the second year in a row - just 3% of the world's 570 million growers.
According to the annual GM crop report produced by ISAAA, there was a 3% increase in GM plantings in 2016 - a net gain of 2% after a fall in 2015 attributed to low grain prices. Responsible for this small rise are the USA and Brazil - by far the two biggest GM crop countries - while in most other countries GM plantings increased slightly or declined. The rise in GM cropping in Brazil (mainly soy) has been accompanied by reports of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. In Australia farmers continue to embrace GM technology – as evidenced by an increase in GM plantings of 29 percent, that is down mainly to GM cotton.
Time to move on
With GM foods unpopular with many consumers, crops are sold for animal feed, biofuel production or fibre. Big agricultural ingredient suppliers like Cargill are responding to strong consumer demand for GM-free labelled foods and ingredients in North America, driving a return to conventional varieties. Faced with this situation, GM seed companies are merging. Soon three agrochemical and seed giants – Bayer/Monsanto, ChemChina/Syngenta and Dow/Dupont - will own over 70% of all commercial crop seed globally, including all GM varieties.
For Bob Phelps, in view of the way GM agriculture is developing, it is time to accept that genetically manipulated crops have stalled and to move on.