Feast Your Eyes: The Atlas of Genetically Modified Crops

Posted by Nicola Twilley


Yesterday, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, a nonprofit organization funded in large part by the biotech industry, issued a new report on the status of genetically modified crops around the world.

The Economist has used ISAAA's data to make a map showing where in the world GM crops are grown. As you can see, the United States is by far the leader in the field, with 165 million acres (66.8 million hectares) of GM crops under cultivation, an increase of nearly 7 million acres on 2009 levels.

Clive James, ISAAA's director and founder, told the BBC that more than 15 million farmers grow GM crops, and that, "during 2010, the accumulated commercial biotech plantation exceeded one billion hectares [2.47 billion acres]— that's an area larger than the U.S. or China," and equivalent to 10 percent of the world's arable land.

Meanwhile, The Economist pointed out an interesting trend:

Developing countries are planting GM crops at a more rapid rate than rich countries. Brazil has added some 10m hectares [24.7 million acres] since 2008 and overtook Argentina as the second-biggest grower in 2010. India, too, increased its area by over 10 percent last year. The most popular crop is soya, while the most common modification is tolerance to herbicides.

With the European Union having just voted to allow animal feed imports containing up to 0.1 percent GM seeds (previously shipments found to contain any trace of non-approved biotech crops were turned away upon arrival at port), it does indeed seem—for better or for worse—as though GM crops are here to stay.

Chart via The Economist.