Over 114 million hectares of land was planted to GM crops in 23 countries in 2007. Poland and Chile were new additions with Chile producing GM for seed export and Poland grew Bt maize for the first time. The USA, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India and China top the list in order of hectares planted according to a new report from the ISAA by Clive Hamilton.
For the third consecutive year India reported the largest year-on-year proportional increase of GM crop plantings, with an increase of 63 percent. The area of Bt cotton grown in India increased from 50,000 hectares in 2002, to 6.2 million hectares in 2007 and is grown by 3.8 million farmers.
Australian farmers grew just 0.1 million hectares of cotton in 2007 and the 2008 Australian cotton crop is set to be the smallest in 30 years with just 65,000 hectares of cotton planted late last year because of the drought.
Cotton is the only GM crop that can be grown commercially in Australia. There are bans on the growing of all GM crops in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and the South Australian government has just decided to continue its bans beyond April this year. The moratoriums in NSW and Victoria should be lifted this year.
The NSW government has exempted GM cotton from its bans on GM crops which were introduced in 2004 to prevent the planting of new varieties of canola.
Canadian farmers grew 7 million hectares of GM canola, maize and soybean in 2007.
from the ‘Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2007’, by Clive James
Aaron Edmonds says
Jen great to see some ag related posts. We need capacity to build stocks otherwise its looking pretty grim for food pricing in the future.
Aaron Edmonds says
Amazing really … you can get hundreds of highly intellectual posts on whether the world is warming or not on this forum. And despite everyone being a consumer of food very few of you devote more than the occassional fleeting thought towards the issue of food security and the importance of not just maintaining agricultural capacity but building upon it, even if that means increasing resiliance to higher input costs or (dare I say it because it might not be happening eh Paul?) climate change..
OK Aaron – make with the guest post. Sock it to us.
Plenty of capacity in northern Australia and South America – why not open up better country – with better climates and soils? Instead of scratching around on dirt farms in semi-arid extremis. And why not go global ? Where’s the global farmer co-ops?
And won’t genetic engineering save the day – no herbicides, no pesticides, every plant fixing it’s own nitrogen from the atmosphere?
Aaron Edmonds says
Capacity as defined by what? You need more than just land Luke.
You need fertilizer of which there is limited excess capacity for newly developed lands. That’s why fertilizer commodities have hyperinflated the most of all commodities since October 2006. 40 years of underinvestment in fertilizer output capacity will now mean shortages in the coming year cannot be avoided. It takes years to bring new mines into production and for upgrades to expand output.
The same issue exists for herbicide capacity. Severe shortages of key weed controlling chemicals now exist around the world eg glyphosate, atrazine, trifluralin etc.
There are chemical soil constraints affecting land use such as acidic aluminium toxic cerrado soils in Brazil which require resources to ameliorate (lime, plant breeding gains). Unable to grow any cereal crop in such soils.
You need infrastructure to enable any sort of production of a primary product and also its circulation through to market at an acceptable cost. That means railway lines to ports. Roads from farms to railway heads. Massive on farm storage works. All this when not only the cost of infrastructure has significantly inflated but also the physical supply is constrained. A waiting list for John Deere tractor of at least 10 months.
You need people willing to work in remote areas. I can’t get people to work two hours out of Perth let alone in the remote parts of Australia’s North.
Dirt farms can still be profitable yet be less productive with hyperinflating commodity prices.
Genetic engineering will be necessary to manipulate plants to manage each and every one of these capacity constraints. Acid/aluminium tolerance, low phosphate removing, low potash removing, perennial growth habits, increased nitrogen fixation rates on legumes, pest resistance. But there is a major time lag in getting new plant varieties out to farmers that they need tomorrow not in ten years time.
Can we overt starvation in unheard of places in the world? I doubt it. I think we’ve left it just a little late to address all these issues … hasn’t helped the think tanks have been asleep at the wheel on this issue!
Could debate you – but could agree too on a fair bit.
Give us the guest post series Aaron. I’m up to hear your viewpoint.
You’re not getting a run because it’s not as issue bashing greenies – that’s your problem. It’s a resource limits issue with no enviro agenda. Too practical.
Doesn’t have to be Brazil – Argentina is good too.
But in terms of efficiency a lot of prickle farms should go. Not optimal for individuals of course but perhaps optimal nationally.
Aaron Edmonds says
Agriculture is the second largest energy consumer hence is also the second largest greenhouse gas emmitter globally.
Agriculture manages by far and away the majority of the world’s land asset base. If land is not in a city it is almost certainly managed by or threatened by a farmer.
Fertilizer runoff changes the nature of river systems and their discharge zones into the oceans.
Energy from biomass, now coal prices have begun to hyperinflate, will encourage a renewed affront on the world’s remaining forests as anything organic is potential feedstock for syngas, cellulosic ethanol or static energy generation. Watch global fertilizer demand double from here.
Call me a cynic but isn’t just a little bit funny that the majority of issues tackled here are the ones that are impediments to big business making or attemtping to make a buck or two? These are not the only things relevant to ‘the environment’. I’m all for transgenic exploitation but this is not the only issue that needs covering in agriculture.
And if there was a genuine concern for all those weird and wonderful organisms out there wouldn’t there be more discussion on profitable land uses that actually encourage expansion of habitat. Eg native food plant production. Because as lovely as these creatures all are, their future is currently under threat as never before.
The discussion of all these topics shouldn’t be left to one man to bring it to the attention of Australia’s thinktanks. Actually quite disconcerting if that is the case. After all they are supposed to be the smart ones, I just grow food albeit now far more profitably. As food prices skyrocket really none of this is my problem if I was to play the devil’s advocate? But I know food and energy price inflation are very bad things for the people of the world and the environment.
Well the problem is again that Greenpeace isn’t on the case – you’d have the full think tank attention then. Too much diversion on side campaigns Aaron. Major real issues languish.
I still encourage you to do a guest post series on food security.
I’m now bouncing left and right after reading all of the comments and some research about GM foods.
I guess my concern is that we have our scientists do the correct testingto ensure the long term safety of any foods adopted as main stream food sources for Australians.
Monsanto is definitely one company I would not trust due to their history and involvement with US Government hieracy. If Monsanto has patents on their seed ‘designs’ and sell it off to us and do as they have in the US, do we then fall into the trap of paying huge dollars for seed that may very well become the only source of seed.
It is now my understanding that US Government has slipped through legislation preventing Organic Farmers from producing crops and any source of organic food source. Yes it is now illegal there. Maybe not pursued yet but the legislation has been passed.