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.
Report name: ‘Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/ GM Crops in 2017’
Highlights of the report:
Unlike other big growers, India’s 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. It includes soyabean, maize (corn), cotton, alfalfa, canola, sugar-beet, potato, apples, squash, and papaya.
The 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. The total planted area grew particularly during the first decade of this century while slowing down in the last five years.
The report has estimated the highest share in the world’s total 189.8 mh GM crop area for 2017 to be of soyabean (94.1 mh), followed by maize (59.7 mh), cotton (24.1 mh), canola (10.2 mh), alfalfa (1.2 mh) and sugar-beet (0.50 mh).
In India, the GM crops that are under regulatory consideration — apart from the already commercialized Bt/insect-resistant cotton — include glyphosate-tolerant cotton and biotech hybrid mustard.
Both the Bollgard II-Roundup Ready Flex (BGII-RRF) cotton event of Monsanto (incorporating Bt as well as glyphosate-tolerant genes) and transgenic mustard developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (harbouring three alien genes that enable higher yields through hybridisation) have undergone all the mandated bio-safety research and open field trials. Their commercial release has, however, been stuck due to opposition from environmental activists.