About 100,000 farmers with an average of 7.4 acres planted commercial biotech cotton in 2012 for the fifth year in Burkina Faso in West Africa.  Plantings of 775,000 acres of biotech cotton were 51 percent of total cotton acreage which increased 27 percent from 2011.  Data from biotech plantings in 2011 showed yields almost 20 percent higher than conventional cotton, 2 sprayings of insecticides instead of 6 and a net gain in income of $95 per acre.  Two thirds of the additional income from higher yields and lower insecticide expenses is retained by the farmers and one-third goes to the technology developers and the local seed companies.  Cotton is the principal cash crop for the country and provides over 50 percent of the country’s export earnings.

The South Asian country of Myanmar produced insect resistant biotech cotton for the seventh year in 2012.  About 428,000 farmers grew an average of 1.7 acres and a total of 741,000 acres, 84 percent of the total cotton acres in the country.  Agriculture accounts for half of the nation’s GDP and 70 percent of employment.  The ‘Silver Sixth’ variety was developed, produced and distributed by the Myanmar Industrial Crops Development Enterprise.

The Republic of Sudan in northeastern Africa in 2012 became the fourth country in Africa to commercialize a biotech crop with 49,000 acres of biotech cotton grown in irrigated and rainfed areas.  About 10,000 farmers planted 2.5-6.0 acres; acreage was limited by seed availability.  Total cotton area is about 370,000 acres.  Chinese biotech cotton was used to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology in controlling bollworms.  Agriculture employs about 80 percent of the population and accounts for a third of GDP; cotton is a major agricultural export product.

In 2012 Egypt planted 2,500 acres of biotech corn before temporary planting restrictions were placed on the crop.  In 2011, 7,000 acres were planted.  This work is part of Egypt’s Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute, the leading crop biotech institute in the Arab world.  They are researching other biotech crops like wheat, barley and cotton.  Egypt is extremely land constrained, but agriculture continues to provide 13 percent of GDP and almost 30 percent of employment.  Egypt imports about 50 percent of the food consumed by its 80 million people.

Cuba is now growing biotech corn with ‘regulated commercialization’ in which farmers seek permission to grow the crop.  In 2011, farmers grew an estimated 12,400 acres of biotech corn, and in 2012 farmers planted 7,400 acres of hybrid biotech corn.  Cuba has joined other late adopters of modern seed technology by introducing the two technologies at the same time.  The program is part of an ecological sustainable pesticide-free program.  The major threat in Cuban corn is the fall armyworm, and reducing insecticides with biotech seed protects beneficial insects and increases yields up to 30 percent.  The technology was developed by the Havana-based Institute for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

The information gathered by the ISAA shows that biotechnology is producer size neutral.  Limited-resource farmers at the edge of the market economy can use the technology as effectively as large scale farmers if a responsive regulatory structure exists and a local seed industry can pull the technology through the development chain.  Researchers in these countries have also shown that biotechnology is a proven technology that can be replicated in developing countries, tailored to meet the specific needs of local producers and provide benefits to agricultural producers and consumers.

Ross Korves is an Economic Policy Analyst with Truth About Trade & Technology (www.truthabouttrade.org). Follow us: @TruthAboutTrade on Twitter | Truth About Trade & Technology on Facebook.

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