25 Mar 2015

GM crops cover area the size of Mexico

3:24 pm on 25 March 2015

New research indicates the use of genetically modified (GM) crops now covers an area of land almost as large as Mexico.

Crops

Photo: 123rf

The information comes from Washington-based economic and environmental thinktank Worldwatch Institute.

It has collated worldwide information and found that genetically modified crops internationally reached 181.5 million hectares last year, or almost the size of Mexico.

The main GM crop producers are the US, Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada.

GM crops have had their genetic materials engineered through biotechnologies to introduce new or enhanced characteristics, such as resistance to herbicides, insects or drought, or to make them more nutritious.

They have been praised for increasing crop yields and helping to alleviate hunger, but they have also been criticised for reckless interference in natural processes as well as making it hard for non-GM farmers in third-world countries to compete.

Despite these controversies, the report said GM production was continuing to grow.

It now produces over $20 billion worth of wealth annually.

The report added that the benefits of GM crops have accrued mainly to farmers, through time-saving measures and reduction of risk.

It said the principal driving force for GM crops was demand for animal feed, such as soybeans and corn, and crop-based oils, such as soybean and canola, rather than for food consumed directly by people.

The report went on to forecast GM crops diversifying into fruits, protein seeds, and staple foods such as rice and cassava in the next five to ten years.

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