Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2017
The first 21 years of commercialization of biotech crops (1996 to 2016) has confirmed that biotech crops have delivered substantial agronomic, environmental, economic, health, and social benefits to farmers, and increasingly to the consumers (ISAAA, 2016). The rapid adoption of biotech crops reflects the substantial multiple benefits realized by both large and small farmers in industrial and developing countries which have commercially grown biotech crops. In 21 years, an accumulated 2.15 billion hectares of biotech crops have been grown commercially, comprised of 1.04 billion hectares of biotech soybean, 0.64 billion hectares of biotech maize, 0.34 billion hectares of biotech cotton, and 0.13 billion hectares of biotech canola. Biotech products derived from 2.15 billion hectares significantly contribute food, feed, fiber and fuel to the current 7.6 billion people. Hence, feeding the world which is continuously increasing and predicted to be 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100 (UN, 2017) is indeed a daunting task.It is quite unfortunate though that the successes of the UN Millennium Development Goals (UNMDG) that ended in 2015 were not altogether successful as indicated in current situationer released by the global food insecurity report (FAO, July 23, 2017). The Global Report on Food Crises in 2017 revealed that around 108 million people in 48 food crisis-affected countries are still at risk or in severe acute food insecurity since 2016. Moreover, the number of hungry people has reversed years of progress accomplished by the UN-MDG, with about 60% of the hungry people being located in 19 countries facing conflict and climate change situations. The situation is expected to worsen with the documented decline in productivity and protein content of major staple crops with climate change. It is thus estimated that the world will require some 50% to 70% increase in food production (Pennsylvania State University, 2017) with dwindling resources of land, water, and the environmental and agricultural challenges brought by climate change. It is noteworthy, however, that productivity gained in the last 21 years through biotech crops proved that conventional crop technology alone cannot allow us to feed the immense increase in population, but neither is biotechnology a panacea. The global scientific community adheres to the option of a balanced, safe, and sustainable approach using the best of conventional crop technology such as the well-adapted and agronomically desirable and high-yielding germplasm, and the best of biotechnology (GM and non-GM traits), to achieve sustainable intensification crop productivity on the 1.5 billion hectares of cropland globally.The more than 18 million farmers (up to 90% were small/poor farmers) in up to 30 countries who have planted biotech crops attest to the multiple benefits they derived in the last 21 years as follows:
– Increased productivity that contributes to global food, feed, and fiber security
– Self-sufficiency on a nation’s arable land
-Conserving biodiversity, precluding deforestation and protecting biodiversity sanctuaries
-Mitigating the challenges associated with climate change; and • Improving economic, health, and social benefits.