ISAAA Brief 34-2005: Press Release
Global Biotech Crop Area Continues to Soar in 2005
After Decade of Commercialization
U.S. farmers plant 123 million acres of biotech crops, up 5 percent from 2004
SAO PAULO, Brazil (Jan. 11, 2006) — Farmer demand has driven annual double-digit
increases in biotech crop adoption since the crops were commercialized a decade ago. In
2005, four new countries and a quarter million more farmers planted biotech crops as part
of an 11 percent increase in global biotech crop area, according to a report released today,
authored by Dr. Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA, the International Service
for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.
Since initial commercialization in 1996, global planted area of biotech crops has
soared by more than fifty-fold from 4.2 million acres in six countries to 222 million acres
in 21 countries in 2005. The 8.5 million farmers planting biotech crops in 2005 also
marked a significant milestone as the 1 billionth cumulative acre, or 400 millionth
hectare, was planted.
Herbicide-tolerant soybeans continue to be the most widely adopted trait,
accounting for 60 percent of the total global area. Varieties with stacked traits are
growing in popularity, accounting for 10 percent of the global area. In 2005, 247 million
“trait acres” were planted, which better quantifies those acres planted to varieties with
multiple biotech enhancements.
“Farmers from the United States to Iran, and five EU countries demonstrate a trust
and confidence in biotech crops, as indicated by the unprecedented high adoption rate of
these crops,” said Dr. James, chairman and founder of ISAAA. “The continued expansion
of countries growing biotech crops also bears witness to the substantial economical,
environmental and social benefits associated with these crops.”
Notably, in 2005 Iran grew its first crop of biotech rice, the first biotech planting
of this important food crop globally. The Czech Republic planted Bt maize for the first
time, bringing the total number of EU countries growing biotech crops to five with Spain,
Germany and the Czech Republic being joined by France and Portugal, which resumed
planting biotech maize after four and five year gaps, respectively. This could signal an
important trend in the EU.
Two-thirds or 14 of the 21 countries growing biotech crops achieved “mega-country”
status by planting 125,000 acres or more in 2005, including the United States, Argentina, Brazil,
Canada, China, Paraguay, India, South Africa, Uruguay, Australia, Mexico, Romania,
the Philippines and Spain.
In the United States, farmers grew more biotech crops than any other country —
123 million acres or 55 percent of the world’s biotech area. That represents an increase of
5.4 million acres. Nearly 20 percent or 23.6 million acres are now planted with multiple or
stacked biotech traits. U.S. farmers also planted the first triple-stacked variety in 2005 on about
1.24 million acres.
Brazil experienced the most significant growth, increasing its biotech soybean area by
88 percent to reach a provisional 23 million acres in 2005. India displayed the largest
proportional growth, nearly three-fold, by planting 3.2 million acres of Bt cotton in 2005
compared to 1.24 million acres in 2004.
When biotech crops were first commercialized, critics suggested the technology would
never be valuable in the developing world. Now, resource-poor farmers in developing countries
account for 90 percent of the 8.5 million growers who benefit from biotechnology, while
developing nations represent more than one-third of 2005 global biotech area.
“Biotech crops have increased the income of 7.7 million resource-poor farmers in China,
India, South Africa, the Philippines and seven other developing countries, helping alleviate them
from abject poverty,” James said. “The broader commercialization of biotech rice, the most
important food crop of the world’s 1.3 billion poor and the 850 million hungry and
malnourished, can further this effort. Biotech rice could make a substantial contribution to the
formidable U.N. Millennium development goal of reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition by
50 percent by 2015.”
James indicated the future looks promising for continued increases in adoption levels in
the next decade.
“I am cautiously optimistic the stellar growth experienced during the first decade of
commercialization will not only continue, but will be surpassed in the second decade,” he said. “The number of countries and farmers growing biotech crops is expected to grow, particularly
in developing countries, while second-generation input and output traits are expected to
According to the report, other indicators of continued growth include China’s expected
near-term adoption of biotech rice, more nutritional biotech food and feed, products and the
anticipated introduction of novel crop products used as renewable resources for more sustainable
and affordable production of biofuels. ISAAA projects the global value of the biotech crop
market to increase from $5.25 billion in 2005 to $5.5 billion in 2006.