For the first time in the sixteen year history of the commercial production of biotech crops, more acres were planted in developing countries in 2012 than developed ones, 219 million acres versus 202 million acres, according to estimates by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application (ISAAA).  Of the 219 million acres in developing countries, 171 million acres where in six South American countries with large farms much like developed countries.  The remaining acres are in countries with large numbers of limited-resource farmers.

India has the largest biotech crop acreage among counties with large numbers of limited-resource farmers with 7.2 million farmers growing 26.7 million acre of biotech cotton, an average of 3.7 acres.  According to the ISAAA, for 11years biotech cotton has helped suppress the cotton bollworm in India, with the adoption rate reaching 93 percent in 2012.  Based on adoption rates in the U.S. and other countries, 93 percent is probably near the optimal rate.  The number of farmers growing cotton increased from 5.0 million in 2002-03 to 7.6 million in 2012-13, and production increased from 13.6 million bales in 2002 to 25.5 million bales in 2012.   According to estimates by USDA, yields in India have increased from about 270 pounds per acre before the introduction of hybrid and biotech cotton to 450 pounds per acre in recent years.  Herbicide resistant cotton will enter the market in the near future to further increase yields by controlling weeds and conserving moisture.

China had the next largest acreage of biotech crops in 2012 at 9.7 million acres of cotton grown by 7.2 million limited-resource farmers.  China also had 15,500 acres of virus resistant papaya and 1,200 acres of biotech poplar trees.  China first grew biotech cotton in 1997 and now has an 80 percent adoption rate.  In 2009 government regulators approved domestically-developed biotech phytase corn and two varieties of rice now undergoing extensive field trials before release for commercial production.  The biotech rice could benefit 110 million rice growing households in China and another 140 million rice producers in the rest of Asia.


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Pakistan has grown biotech cotton for only three year, but already has an adoption rate of 82 percent, with 700,000 limited-resource farmers growing 6.9 million acres.  Farmers can choose from 16 insect resistant biotech varieties.  Yields had been almost stagnant for the past two decades, and Pakistan hopes to become a consistent exporter of cotton.  A similar production opportunity exists for corn.

Limited-resource farmers in the Philippines growing biotech corn on an average of 5 acres increased to 375,000 in 2012.  The country’s biotech crop plantings totaled 1.9 million acres.  Second generation Golden Rice is being field tested at the Philippine Rice Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute.  Fruit and shoot borer resistant eggplants are also being developed.