According to new figures released by ISAAA, over 16.7 million farmers in 29 countries are now growing 160 million hectares of GM crops around the world. This is an 8 per cent increase compared with last year.

Particularly striking is the fact that farmers in developing countries have doubled their plantings of GM, with 50 percent of worldwide biotech crops now grown in such areas.

Commenting on the publication of the figures, Chair of abc Dr Julian Little said:

“Today’s figures show how farmers in the developing world are choosing biotech crops as a way of increasing their incomes, boosting yields and reducing their impact on the environment. These results smash once and for all, the myth that agricultural biotechnology is just about large prairie farmers in North and South America. This is a technology that works for any type of farmer, big or small, resource–poor or technology-rich.  With a growing world population, soaring demand and the impact of climate change putting pressure on production, agricultural technologies are playing an increasingly important role in boosting food security.

“In Europe, this is hampered by a dysfunctional approvals process that denies farmers the choice of using biotechnologies. Until Europe unlocks the potential of new technologies farmers will be unable to play their part in meeting the challenges facing food production”.

Dr Andrea Graham from the National Farmers Union (NFU) added:

“Unfortunately, UK farmers continue to be denied the choice of being able to access certain types of biotechnology which are now common place outside Europe. This impacts on their competitiveness in the global market whilst also preventing us from having the opportunity to explore the potential environmental benefits and other positive traits this technology can offer.

We urgently need a science-based decision-making process on biotech crops in Europe to allow UK farmers to have access to this technology as part of their toolbox in meeting the challenges of the present and the future.”

The figures released today show that:

• 90 percent of farmers worldwide growing biotech crops are small resource-poor farmers in developing countries – 15 million - up 8 percent or 1.3 million since 2010
• Growth rates of biotech crops in developing countries were twice as fast as developed countries in 2011
• Out of the top ten countries growing biotech crops, eight were in the developing world
• India planted 10.6 million hectares of biotech cotton during 2011
• Brazil increased its area planted with biotech crops by 20 percent in 2011
• Africa planted 2.5 million hectares of biotech crops, and is making advancements with field trials in the regulatory process for additional biotech crop countries and crops
• In Europe, plantings of biotech maize in 2011 were a record 114,490 hectares. This represents an increase of more than 25 percent on 2010, but is only a small fraction of the 51million hectares grown worldwide.