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Ninety per cent of farmers growing genetically modified (GM) crops are from developing countries, according to a report.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit organisation promoting agricultural biotechnology for the poor, say that GM crops were grown by 11 million small and resource-poor farmers in 2007 — 90 per cent of the total number of GM-growing farmers worldwide.

This was an increase of 18.3 per cent from 2006, when some 9.3 million small farmers were represented.

"With increasing food prices globally, the benefits of biotech crops have never been more important," said Clive James, one of the authors of the report and chairman of the ISAAA, in a press statement.

According to the report, launched last week (13 February), 23 countries — 12 of which were developing nations — planted GM crops in 2007. In total, 114.3 million hectares of GM crops were cultivated worldwide, with 43 per cent of the global GM crop area in developing countries.

In terms of hectarage, the biggest GM producer is still the United States, followed by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India and China.

South Africa remains the only African country to have authorised the sale of GM crops.

Brazil saw the largest absolute increase (3.5 million hectares) in GM crop cultivation in 2007, retaining its position as the third largest adopter of GM crops with an estimated 15 million hectares.

Earlier in the week (12 February) Brazil's National Council of Biosafety approved the sale of two GM corn varieties resistant to insecticides and herbicides, Bayer AG's Liberty Link and Monsanto's Guardian.

Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth also released a report this week to contrast the ISAAA findings.

Friends of the Earth say GM crops are not alleviating hunger and poverty. They argue that the majority of GM crops are not aimed at the poor and are instead used for animal feed, biofuels and highly processed food products for consumption in rich countries.

Their report also points out that GM crops designed to be herbicide tolerant have spawned herbicide-resistant weeds in the Argentina, Brazil and the United States, thereby encouraging greater use of chemicals to control them.

Link to executive summary of ISAAA report

Link to executive summary of Friends of the Earth report [944kB]

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