More African farmers embrace biotech crops doubling number of planting countries in 2019 – ISAAA

AFRICA – Africa doubled the number of countries planting biotech crops from three in 2018 to six in 2019, leading the progress among the regions of the world in GM crop adoption.

This is according to the latest report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) on the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2019.

ISAAA is a not-for-profit international organization that shares the benefits of crop biotechnology to various stakeholders, particularly resource-poor farmers in developing countries, through knowledge sharing initiatives and support to transfer of proprietary biotechnology applications.

The new biotech adopters in region are Malawi, Nigeria, and Ethiopia joining South Africa, Sudan, and eSwatini in harnessing the benefits of the revolutionary Agritech solution.

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The six countries grew three biotech crops i.e., maize, soybean and cotton on approximately three million hectares by end of 2019.

Seen as a potential candidate to join the list of adopters soon is Kenya as it announced the commercialization of biotech cotton at the end of 2019, with plantings that started in 2020.

Aside from these developments, significant progress in biotech crop research, regulation, and acceptance has been evident in Mozambique, Niger, Ghana, Rwanda and Zambia, indicates the report.

In addition, Niger is the latest country to pass their Biosafety Law. Also, Rwanda joined Kenya and Uganda in researching GM cassava with the country progressing to undertake confined field trials for the crop this year.

“During the Green Revolution, great leaps in productivity were achieved using machinery and chemical pesticides and fertilizers; in this period of Doubly Green Revolution, biotechnology is playing an incremental role in making farms more productive and profitable.”

Dr. Paul S. Teng – ISAAA Board Chair

With the progress made Africa has been regarded as the region with the biggest potential to benefit from biotech crop adoption because of the immense problems relating to poverty and malnutrition in the region.

“Positioning Africa as a leader than a follower of technology adoption will require strong political goodwill at the Africa Union level, harnessing the creativity of her young professionals through bio-entrepreneurship growth and the new ST&I horizons for 4th Industrial revolution such as Synthetic Biology.

“Importantly, embracing regional collaboration of the willing will accelerate this growth by optimizing data sharing and synergies across the region”, said Dr Margaret Karembu, ISAAA AfriCenter director.

Bio-tech crop adoption globally

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With the addition of three African countries, the number of countries planting biotech crops in 2019 globally increased to 29 from 26 in 2018.

The top five countries with the widest area of biotech crops were the USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and India.

With high adoption rates of principal biotech crops in these countries, approximately 1.95 billion people or 26 per cent of the world reaped the benefits of biotechnology in 2019.

In total, 190.4 million hectares of biotech crops were grown in 29 countries in 2019, contributing significantly to food security, sustainability, climate change mitigation, and uplifting lives of up to 17 million biotech farmers and their families worldwide.

Double-digit growth rates in biotech crop areas were recorded in developing countries, particularly in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Colombia.

“During the Green Revolution, great leaps in productivity were achieved using machinery and chemical pesticides and fertilizers; in this period of Doubly Green Revolution, biotechnology is playing an incremental role in making farms more productive and profitable.

“Although the trend of large agribusinesses engaging small farmers has drawn much skepticism and even criticism, the silver lining is that smallholder farm-level productivity has great potential to multiply,” said Dr. Paul S. Teng, ISAAA Board Chair.

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