As More Countries Adopt Crop Biotechnology, Farm Families and the Environment Benefit

Biotech crops in the last 22 years have brought enormous benefits to the environment, health of humans and animals, and contributions to the improvement of socio economic conditions of farmers and the general public, according to a new report issued today by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

The ISAAA report shows the global biotech crop area increased in 2017 by 3 percent or 4.7 million hectares or 11.6 million acres; Global economic gains contributed by biotech crops in the last 21 years (1996-2016) have amounted to US $186.1 billion economic benefits to more than 16 to 17 million farmers, 95 percent of whom come from developing countries.

As more developing countries, now 19 in total including India, Pakistan, Brazil, Bolivia, Sudan, Mexico, Colombia, Vietnam, Honduras, and Bangladesh have increased their biotech crop area and continue to allow farmers to adopt biotechnology in food production, smallholder farmers see the direct improvements this offers, allowing them to provide better lives for themselves and their families.

Developing countries now account for 53 percent of the global biotech area planted.

The ISAAA report was released in conjunction with a similar study by PG Economics, Ltd. Both studies highlight and quantify the continued social, environmental and economic benefits of the global adoption of biotechnology in agriculture.

From 1996-2016, PG Economics reported biotech crops provided $186.1 billion in economic gains to some 17 million farmers, many of whom are female, smallholder farmers solely responsible for the livelihood of their families and communities.

“Global food insecurity is a huge problem in developing countries, with around 108 million people in food crisis-affected countries still at risk or experiencing food insecurity,” said Graham Brookes, Director of PG Economics and co-author of the socio-economic and environmental impact paper. “We have seen for more than 20 years now how crop biotechnology adoption in developing countries has contributed to higher yields, more secure production, and increased incomes greatly contributing to decreasing poverty, hunger and malnutrition in some regions of the globe most prone to these challenges.”

The PG Economics study also shows great strides have already been made to reduce the footprint of agriculture and in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The latest study highlights how biotech use in agriculture continues to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Highlights from the PG Economics report include:

  • In 2016, the GM crop-related carbon dioxide emission savings from reduced fuel use and additional soil carbon sequestration were equal to the removal of 16.75 million cars from the roads.
  • Advances in biotech crops allow farmers to use insecticides and herbicides more strategically, reducing the environmental impact associated with their use by 18.4 percent on GM crop areas since 1996.
  • In 2016, the direct global farm income benefit from GM crops was $18.2 billion, equal to an average increase in income of $102/hectare. Since 1996, farm incomes have increased by $186.1 billion.
  • Biotechnology remains a strong investment for farmers. In terms of farmer investment, for each dollar invested in biotech crop seeds, farmers gained an average $3.49.

Additional highlights from ISAAA’s 2017 report include:

  • In 2017, 67 countries used biotech crops.
    – This includes 24 countries in total that grew biotech crops, including 19 developing and five industrial countries;
    – and an additional 43 non-planting countries that formally regulate the importation and use of biotech crops for food, feed and processing
  • Top five countries (USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India) planted 91.3 percent of the global biotech crop area of 189.8 million hectares or 469 million acres.
  •  Biotech crops increased ~112-fold from 1996, the fastest adopted crop technology in the world; accumulated biotech area at 2.3 billion hectares or 5.7 billion acres.


The complementary studies – PG Economics’ “GM Crops: Global Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts 1996-2016” and ISAAA’s Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2017” – examine the continued widespread adoption of global crop biotechnology, and the significant positive socio-economic and environmental impacts of this adoption by farmers and communities around the globe.

The associated two papers in the peer review journal GM Crops and Food are available, with open access, at: and

Modern Farming: How One Scientist Explains the Evolving Industry

We, as a country, are far removed from our ag roots. The American Farm Bureau says the average American is now at least three generations removed from the farm. So while we are all eating food, we don’t always know or understand how or where our food comes from.

That’s why educating consumers about our food is so important. In a new blog post from GMO Answers, GMO Answers Expert professor and farmer Tim Durham addresses some of the top myths and misconceptions about modern farming. Dr. Durham’s family operates a 30-acre vegetable farm on Long Island, New York — where he returns to work every summer. During the academic year, Dr. Durham teaches general biology, plant science, biotechnology, genetics, and agronomy at Ferrum College in Virginia.

He discusses topics such as

1. What are some of the biggest challenges farmers face today?

2. What methods and tools are available to manage and protect crops against these problems?

3. There is lots of information and misinformation in the media and online about pesticides and their safety. Can you explain a little bit about the need for pesticides and their relationship to GMO crops?

4. Is there anything else you’d like us to know about science, biotechnology or modern farming practices?

To learn more about these topics, please visit the GMO Answers Medium page and read all about them!

She Blinded Me With Science: What We’re Reading, May 2017

Each month, GMO Answers compiles a few stories we think particularly noteworthy. Science is everywhere, and that was especially true in the stories that caught our eye this past April. So go with the flow, lose control, feel the power, fight your resistance, be a catalyst, start a reaction, keep an ion the ball, and join us in finding out the latest in the world of science and GMOs in this month’s What We’re Reading post:

To learn more about the science of GMOs, agriculture, and plants, please visit the GMO Answers website.

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In Boulder County, What if Farmers were in Charge of Farm Policy?

Over the past five months, Boulder County community columnist Mara Abbott has researched the local, national and international debate over GMOs in agriculture and interviewed 14 key local players to produce a five-part series in the Daily Camera on Boulder County’s decision to ban GMOs on county-owned agricultural land, covering facets ranging from the scientific merits to the impacts to farmers and the economy. Today we’re highlighting the fifth and final part of her story – what would happen if farmers were in charge of farm policy.

Highlights include:

“When you don’t really deal with a farmer day-in and day-out, you don’t really understand the system very well, and if you don’t understand the system you are vulnerable to all sorts of nonsense, because where are you getting your food knowledge?”

In Boulder, that lack of understanding helped create the GMO ban. As Abbott notes:

“I also can’t help but imagine the outcome if the collective effort and resources devoted to the GMO debate were instead put into innovating solutions to add a diverse toolbox for all county farmers, rather than demonizing and banning “taboo” practices that nearly three dozen members of the CU molecular biology department wrote last year advance our sustainability goals.”

To read her series from the beginning, click HERE.

Obama talks GMOs at Global Conference

Last week, President Barack Obama discussed food and climate change at Seeds and Chips Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan, Italy, joined by his former White House chef Sam Kass. The former president discussed his views on GMOs more extensively than he has in the past.

Kass described gene-editing as “the emerging technology with the biggest potential to transform what we eat,” noting that it’s “cheap and it’s easy.”

When asked for his views on these emerging technologies, Obama described the sensitivities that people often have around food.

“Because food is so close to us and is part of our family and is part of what we do every single day, people, I think, are more resistant to the idea of government or bureaucrats telling them what to eat, how to eat and how to grow,” he said.

Hear the conversation  on food and ag innovation at 2:13:19.

“This debate around genetically modified foods is, I know, a very controversial one,” Obama said. “The approach that I took when I was President of the United States is in the same way that I would let the science determine my policies around climate change. I try to let the science determine my attitudes about food production and new technologies.”

The former president noted the importance of agricultural innovation, making it clear that, while caution and prudence are acceptable, basing our decisions on science is essential.

“The truth is, humanity has always engaged in genetic modifications. The rice we eat or the corn we eat or the wheat we eat does not look like what corn or wheat or rice looked like 1,000 years ago. And that’s because humanity continually learned from experience… and we started realizing that we could not just discover things by accident, but actaully put in place systems of discovery.”

The former president continually focused on the importance of using facts and science to make our determinations on GMOs.

“I worry a little bit that somehow, sometimes the conversation has just gotten cut off, as opposed to, ‘Let’s see what the facts are.’”

While Obama did not give us an idea of how involved he’ll be in food advocacy moving forward, one thing is for sure – biotechnology is on the main stage and will continue to play an increasingly important role in food production.

Convention Programming to Feature “One Health” Concept

Bio-based Technologies Address Human, Animal, Plant and Environmental Health

At its heart, the concept of One Health is rooted in the notion that the health of humans, animals, and the environment are all interconnected. At BIO’s 2017 International Convention (June 19-22 in San Diego), programming will feature the One Health concept through stories that show how science and technology are making tomorrow’s breakthroughs possible.

On Monday, June 19, BIO will host “One Health Day,” bringing together different parts of the BIO family with sessions focused on issues linking human, animal and environmental health. Scheduled speakers include:

Keynote:  One Health for the 21st Century

  • Dr. William Karesh, Executive Vice President for Health and Policy at EcoHealth Alliance

“The very concept of ‘One Health’ is ancient,” says Dr. William Karesh, Executive Vice President for Health and Policy at EcoHealth Alliance. “But our world has changed dramatically, and what’s really exciting is that with 21st Century innovation we have the opportunity to begin to end the pandemic era.”

Human, Animal and Plant Health Connectedness – Industry’s Role:

  • Dr. Carsten Brunn, Bayer’s Head of Pharmaceuticals, Americas Region
  • Frank Terhorst, Bayer’s Global Head of Seeds

“With emerging issues like a rapidly aging population and new and increasingly complex medical needs, our industry is at the forefront of advancements in science and technology that will help cure and prevent some of the most difficult-to-treat conditions, and improve lives,” said Dr. Carsten Brunn, Bayer’s Head of Pharmaceuticals, Americas Region. “With Bayer’s focus across the life science ecosystem, we are actively working to discover and develop innovations that impact the health of people, animals, and plants.”

“As the world’s population is projected to increase by more than three billion people in the next thirty years, we will require an adequate supply of healthy food as well as improved medical care,” stated Frank Terhorst, global head of seeds at Bayer CropScience. “Our research and development activities, fundamental to the well-being of society, are therefore linked by the concept of ‘One Health,’ with the goal of finding solutions to some of the major challenges of our time.”

Panel Discussion:  How to Move “One Health” Forward

  • Dr. Eddie Sullivan, CEO, SAB Biotherapeutics and Chairman, BIO Food & Ag Section Governing Board (moderator)
  • Dr. Laura Kahn, Research Scholar, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University and Co-Founder, One Health Initiative
  • Dr. Nikos Gurfield, Adjunct Professor of Pathology, UC San Diego and County Veterinarian, San Diego County Vector Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory
  • Dr. William Karesh, Executive Vice President for Health and Policy at EcoHealth Alliance

“Science and technology hold the promise of securing a healthier world for humans, animals and the environment,” says Dr. Eddie Sullivan, CEO, SAB Biotherapeutics and Chairman, BIO Food & Ag Section Governing Board. “To make these breakthroughs a reality, we’ll need a collaborative approach for addressing existing political and economic obstacles and opportunities.”

In our speaker presentations and panel discussions, attendees will hear stories that illustrate the concept of “One Health” and how modern technologies are enabling us to solve global challenges through a collaborative One Health-focused approach. Panelists will also explore the barriers to success and what industry and others can do to solve the problems One Health is poised to address.

BIO 2017 International Convention (BIO 2017) is in San Diego June 19-22 and registration is now open! Check out the complete BIO 2017 program including Keynotes, Super Sessions, Educational Tracks and Fireside Chats with scientific experts, government leaders and leading biotech CEOs. And stay tuned for more updates as we approach BIO 2017!

Filed under: Food And Agriculture, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Our World’s Farmers Favor Biotech Crops

Millions of farmers around the world continue to choose genetically modified (GM) crop varieties because of their environmental and socio-economic benefits and the important role they play in addressing food security, according to a study released today.

The report, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016, produced annually by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), says 18 million farmers in 26 countries grew biotech crops on 185.1 million hectares (457 million acres) in 2016.

“The United Nations warns that our food supply must double by 2050 to meet the world’s expected population growth to 9 billion people,” said BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood in a statement. “GM crops produce bigger yields on less land and help farmers and growers mitigate the environmental challenges of climate change.”

The report shows a 110-fold increase in adoption rate of GM globally in just 21 years of commercialization, proving biotechnology to be the fastest adopted crop technology in the world.  Adoption has grown from 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) in 1996 to 185.1 million hectares (457 million acres) in 2016.

“Biotechnology also provides societal benefits to the 18 million farmers who plant GMO crops – especially to the 90 percent who farm in developing countries,” said Greenwood. “The report shows how biotechnology has helped alleviate hunger by increasing incomes for small farmers and their families, bringing improved financial stability to more than 65 million people.”

Quantifying the environmental benefits of biotechnology, the ISAAA report explains how the adoption of biotech crops has reduced CO2 emissions equal to removing approximately 12 million cars from the road annually; conserved biodiversity by removing 19.4 million hectares of land from agriculture production in 2015; and decreased the environmental impact with a 19 percent reduction in herbicide and insecticide use.

Among the report’s additional highlights:

  • In 2016, 26 countries in total, including 19 developing and 7 industrial countries, grew biotech crops. Developing countries grew 54 percent of biotech crops, compared to 46 percent for industrial nations. 
  • In 2016, the leading countries growing biotech crops continued to be represented by the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India. Combined, these five countries planted 91 percent of the global biotech crop area. 
  • Eight countries in Asia and the Pacific, including China and India, grew 18.6 million hectare of biotech crops in 2016; 7.2 million farmers in India grow biotech cotton.
  • Four countries in Europe (Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia) grew more than 136,000 hectares of biotech maize in 2016, an increase of 17 percent from 2015, reflecting EU’s need for insect resistant maize.
  • Biotech crops have generated $167.8 billion in farm income gains since 1996.
  • Newly commercialized biotech crops and traits – such as non-bruising and non-browning apples and potatoes – directly benefit consumers.


*The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) report, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016 and accompanying materials are posted at

Ag Community Growing Weary Over Perdue Delays

As the debate over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch takes center stage in the Senate, President Trump’s final cabinet nominee, Sonny Perdue, is waiting in the wings and America’s agriculture community is growing antsy.

After significant delay, Perdue’s nomination hearing was held on March 23, and appeared to go swimmingly.  One week later, the Senate Ag Committee voted to favorably report the nominee to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Perdue is now awaiting confirmation by the full U.S. Senate.

Wearied by continuing delays, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway and ranking member Collin Peterson sent a letter urging the upper chamber to get moving on his nomination.

“We strongly support the speedy confirmation of Governor Sonny Perdue as the next secretary of Agriculture,” they wrote. “On behalf of our nation’s farmers and ranchers, and all of rural America, we encourage you to complete this process this week.”

The lawmakers pointed to the many issues facing producers right now, from nosediving farm income to avian influenza and the devastating wildfires in the southern high plains. They also noted that the Trump administration’s recent “skinny budget” proposal, which called for deep cuts to agricultural spending in fiscal year 2018, was developed without input from an Agriculture secretary.

On issues related to ag biotech, having an Ag Secretary in place would further discussions on the forthcoming biotech food labeling disclosure rule and proposed revisions to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) biotechnology regulations (also known as the “340” rules).

Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts has said: “Our farmers and ranchers have been waiting too long for this important position to be filled. We need to get Governor Perdue down to USDA to get to work. Rural America is ready.”

How much longer will rural American have to wait?  As Chris Clayton, reporter for DTN, points out:  “the odds of Perdue getting cleared before the Easter break seem slim.”  Then Congress recesses for two weeks, which means Perdue’s confirmation would come at the end of April at the earliest.

Some ag insiders believe the continuing delays represent President Trump’s lack of interest in the country’s agriculture sector, disregarding that the United States is a key exporter of ag goods and one of the main drivers of the U.S. economy.

Zippy Duvall, President of American Farm Bureau Federation, wrote in Agri-Pulse: Congress needs to confirm Sonny Perdue now!

“We farmers sometimes have an inferiority complex. We feel taken for granted considering what we produce is one of the most important things humans need.

“The long wait for a new secretary of agriculture hasn’t helped…. Whether intentional or not, it sends the wrong message: that agriculture just isn’t as important as other things.

“But I bet all 100 senators will eat a hearty meal today. They’ll just assume their food is plentiful and safe – and it is. To keep it that way, the men and women who grow our food, fiber and energy crops need an agriculture secretary on the job. Gov. Perdue is the right man for the job. The members of the Senate Agriculture Committee certainly think so; they’ve overwhelmingly approved sending Perdue’s nomination to the full Senate.”

Note:  Following publication of this blog, the U.S. Senate has scheduled a vote on the confirmation of Sonny Perdue to be Agriculture Secretary on April 24 at 5:30pm.

6 Ways GMOs Make Agriculture More Environmentally Friendly

Last week, to celebrate National Ag Day, GMO Answers posted a column to its blog explaining how GMOs help to make agriculture more environmentally friendly. Contrary to common myths, GMOs and the sustainable farming practices often used with them, significantly help to reduce our environmental footprint and preserve our natural resources. Today, through advances in crop biotechnology, GMOs like drought-tolerant corn can help farmers minimize losses associated with extreme weather events. Thanks to biotech advancements, GM apples have been approved for consumption, which are non-browning, eliminating the superficial issues that often cause people to throw them away. We also have GM potatoes that are less prone to browning, bruising and black spots, meaning fewer will end up in landfills.

While biotechnology is already helping to address major challenges across the world, like crops threatened by drought and diseases, here are six additional ways biotechnology is helping to make farming and agriculture even more sustainable:

  1. Growing more while using less
  2. Enhancing biodiversity
  3. Improving soil health
  4. Conserving our water
  5. Helping to mitigate nutrient pollution
  6. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions

Crop biotechnology and GMOs have significantly contributed to mitigating the environmental effects of agriculture while preserving our natural resources. They are one solution to combating climate change and addressing the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

To read the entire post, please visit the GMO Answers page.

Every Day is Ag Day

As a kick-off to National Ag Day (March 21, 2017), I was privileged to sit down with representatives from the American Agri-Women (AAW) who were quick to remind us that “Ag Day is Every Day.”

For the billions of people around the world who rely on food, feed, fuel and fiber in their daily lives and the millions of farmers around the world who are our providers, Every Day REALLY IS Ag Day.

American Agri-Women recently launched its year-long education and advocacy campaign, “Ag Day 365: Ag Day is Every Day,” to show that everyone is part of agriculture, every day, and to raise awareness about who produces our nation’s abundant food, fiber and energy supply.

American Agri-Women President Doris Mold farms in Minnesota and is passionate about advocating for agriculture as an ag consultant, educator and volunteer.  Read her post on National Ag Day’s blog page to learn more about the group’s Ag Day activities.

Also part of the AAW organization, Natalie Sents, graduated from Iowa State University, and promptly set out on the Why I Farm Roadtrip – a year-long, 50 state tour documenting agriculture’s diversity and revealing the untold stories of America’s farmers.  Sue McCrum, for example, is a potato farmer in Maine (as well as AAW’s Past-President).  You can read the story of Sue’s family farm on the Why I Farm blog here.

As agriculture continues to be scrutinized, it’s important the agriculture community stands behind farmers, help share their story, and connect with consumers.

Read the stories on the Why I Farm blog to celebrate National Ag Day and honor the American farmer.

Another AAW Iowan, Krystal Doolittle is a self-described “farming wife and mom raising the next generation and helping feed the world.” On her website, Krystal talks about being “a voice for truth about agriculture.” And if a picture is with a thousand words, you should view Krystal’s photography on Instagram:

follow Krystal Doolittle on Instagram!

Follow American Agri-Women’s Ag Day 365 campaign on AAW’s social media accounts, following the hashtag #agday365. Join in and add the hashtag to your own posts, showing what “Ag Day Every Day” means to you!

Every Day is Ag Day, indeed, as these four impressive women in agriculture reminded me.  But there is a whole slate of events scheduled this week to commemorate “National Ag Day,” a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. Click here to see just a few of the events in Washington, D.C..