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U.S. Scientist: Developing Nations to Adopt GmM Crops Faster

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- Banikinkar Pattanayak, Wall Street Journal,  March 10, 2010 

 Developing countries led by China and Brazil will overtake rich nations in adopting genetically modified crops over the next two-three years, as they strive to raise yields to meet demand from their growing population, a top farm scientist said.

Currently, 46% of the land under genetically modified crops is in developing countries, but their share will increase to more than half in two-three years, Clive James, chairman of the U.S.-based International Service For the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, or ISAAA, told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday.
Modifying crops genetically to increase their yields and resistance has been in the midst of controversy since their introduction in 1996. While their advocates, such as the ISAAA, say biotechnology has the potential to raise yield by up to 50% depending on the crop, critics raise safety issues and impact of the crops on environment.

India, a major user of Bt cotton seeds, has witnessed a sharp rise in areas under the genetically modified variety since the introduction of it in 2002, and domestic cotton industry experts expect the growth to continue. However, the country's federal government last month had put on hold the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal, or genetically modified eggplant, for exhaustive tests after protests from environmental groups and farmers.

Mr. James still expects India to be a major user of genetically modified seeds. "China, Brazil, India, Argentina and South Africa are the big five that will drive rise in Bt crop areas as they try to improve yield when arable land growth is stagnant."

He said as much as 60 million hectares of land would come under genetically modified rice and maize in equal proportions in China over the next three years, as that country has granted a critical regulatory approval for both the crops.

Globally, the cultivation area under genetically modified crop is expected to rise to 200 million hectares by 2015 from 134 million hectares now. Of the 25 countries that grow genetically modified crops currently, U.S. accounts for the maximum acreage--64 million hectares, according to ISAAA data.