Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Poor farmers turning to GM in growing numbers

The vast majority of those growing genetically modified (GM) crops are small-scale resource-poor farmers, according to a new study that appears to counterbalance claims that GM technology only benefits large land-owners and food producers.

The report — published by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) — states that over 75 per cent of the world's 5 million GM farmers are located in developing countries and growing GM cotton. Of the 7 million hectares of land cultivated with GM cotton, over half uses the Bt variety (with genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis), which is designed to control the major insect pests of the crop.

"Countries that have introduced Bt cotton have derived significant and multiple benefits," says Clive James, chairman of ISAA, who compiled the study. "These include increased yield, decreased production costs, a reduction of at least 50 per cent in insecticide applications… and significant economic and social benefits."

Critics have questioned whether Bt cotton can sustain these benefits, given evidence that insect resistance appears to be spreading. Anti-GM campaigners are also concerned that Bt technology will enable multinational biotech companies to dominate the seed market in both developed and developing countries.

But ISAAA — which actively promotes the use of biotechnology in the developing world — argues that the Bt variety has the potential to deliver significant benefits on at least half of the world's cotton. The new report identifies 30 developing countries that could be targeted to grow the crop.

© SciDev.Net
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.