For the first time since the introduction of biotech crops almost two decades ago, developing countries grew biotech crops on more land than in industrialized countries in 2012, according to a report released on February 20 by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).

Developing nations planted 52 percent of the global biotech crops in 2012, up from 50 percent a year earlier and higher than the 48 percent that industrial countries grew last year. Last year, the growth rate for biotech crops was more than three times as fast and five times as large in developing countries – 11 percent or 8.7 million hectares (21.5 million acres) in developing countries, versus 3 percent or 1.6 million hectares, (3.95 million acres) in industrial countries.

"This year's ISAAA report adds increasing evidence that agricultural biotechnology is a key component in sustainable crop production. Biotechnology provides solutions for today's farmers in the form of plants that yield more per acre, resist diseases and insect pests, and reduce farmers' production costs, pesticide applications and on-farm fuel use," said Dr. Cathleen Enright, executive director of the Council for Biotechnology Information.  "When you look at the rising number of acres of biotech crops planted each year, it can't be denied that biotech crops are delivering value to more and more growers around the world."

Other highlights of the ISAAA report include:

• Last year marked an unprecedented 100-fold increase in total biotech crop hectarage to 170 million hectares, up from 1.7 million in 1996 – when biotech crops were first commercialized.

• In 2012, a record 17.3 million farmers around the world grew biotech crops. This was an increase of 600,000 from 2011. Over 90 percent, or over 15 million farmers, were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

• China, India, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, which together represent approximately 40 percent of the global population, grew 78.2 million hectares (or 46 percent) of global biotech crops in 2012. The United States continued to be the lead country with 69.5 million hectares, with an average of 90 percent adoption across all crops.

• While 28 countries planted commercialized biotech crops in 2012, an additional 31 countries totaling 59 have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crops for import, food and feed use and for release into the environment since 1996.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) is a not-for-profit organization with an international network of centers designed to contribute to the alleviation of hunger and poverty by sharing knowledge and crop biotechnology applications. For more information, visit www.isaaa.org.