14 Feb 2012

Debate over reported rise in GM plantings

5:00 pm on 14 February 2012

Figures showing a global rise in the use of genetically modified crops have triggered a contrasting response from both sides of the genetically modified food debate.

The annual report of an international organisation promoting the use of biotech crops says farmers in developing countries will sow more genetically modified crops than those in the industrialised world for the first time this year.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications says that's against the predictions of critics who declared that they would never be accepted by developing countries.

It says globally, the area planted with biotech crops rose 8% last year to a record 160 million hectares.

Use in developing nations rose by 11% or more than eight million hectares, with Brazil leading the way.

The United States remains by far the biggest producer of GM crops, with 69 million hectares or more than 40% of the world total.

Most corn and soybean crops grown there are now genetically altered.

Reality check, says Fed Farmers

A long-time advocate of biotech production, William Rolleston, thinks the growth in GM crops, especially in developing countries, is significant.

Dr Rolleston, Federated Farmers spokesperson on food production sciences, says it's a reality check for New Zealand, where there has not been any GM crop production outside research trials.

But GE Free New Zealand spokesperson Claire Bleakley thinks the message that developing countries are choosing to use genetically modified crops is misleading.

She says countries accounting for the greatest uptake are growing the crops because they have no choice.

Ms Bleakley says New Zealand is going to find it increasingly difficult to find sources of GE-free corn seed, unless it becomes self-sufficient in growing it.