India has the world’s fifth largest cultivated area under genetically modified (GM) crops, at 11.4 million hectares (mh) in 2017.
But unlike other big growers, its entire GM crop area is under a single crop — cotton — incorporating genes from the Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt soil bacterium coding for resistance against heliothis bollworm insect pests.
The country with the highest area under transgenic crops, at 75 mh, is the United States. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), the 75 mh GM acreage comprised 34.05 mh soyabean, 33.84 mh maize (corn), 4.58 mh cotton, 1.22 mh alfalfa, 0.876 mh canola, 0.458 mh sugar-beet, 3,000 hectares potato and around 1,000 hectares each of apples, squash and papaya.
Similarly, Brazil’s total 50.2 mh GM crop area included 33.7 mh soyabean, 15.6 mh of maize and 0.94 mh of cotton. The corresponding acreage break-up for Argentina’s 23.6 mh comprised 18.1 mh of soyabean, 5.2 mh maize and 0.25 mh cotton, while it was 8.83 mh canola, 2.50 mh soyabean, 1.78 mh maize, 15,000 hectares sugar-beet, and 3,000 hectares alfalfa in the case of Canada’s total 13.1 mh.
ISAAA’s latest ‘Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/ GM Crops in 2017’ report shows farmers across the world to have planted 189.8 mh under transgenic crops last year. This is as against 1.7 mh in 1996, the year when they were grown commercially for the first time. Total planted area grew particularly during the first decade of this century, while slowing down in the last five years.