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ISAAA Report Finds 100-Fold Increase in Global Biotech Crop Plantings Since 1996


According to the ISAAA report for 2012, farmers around the world continue to enthusiastically embrace and adopt genetically engineered (GE) crops because of their tremendous environmental and economic benefits and contribution to food security.

Since the introduction of agricultural biotechnology in 1996, the global adoption of biotech crops continues to rise with new countries realizing the benefits, according to a report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Last year marked an unprecedented 100-fold increase in land planted in biotech crops since they were first commercialized in 1996. In 2012, biotech crop area grew six percent -- by 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) -- to reach 170.3 million hectares (420.8 million acres).

A record 17.3 million farmers in 28 countries are using agricultural biotechnology.  Ninety percent (more than 15 million) of these are resource-poor smallholders in developing countries.


The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) report provides detailed biotech crop adoption statistics around the world.  ISAAA has been tracking global biotech crop adoption trends since the technology’s inception in 1996. The report is prepared and presented by Dr. Clive James, Chair of the ISAAA Board of Directors.  

ISAAA is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to share knowledge on crop biotechnology so that the global community is more informed about the attributes and potential of the new technologies. 


  • In 2012, global biotech acreage grew to 420.8 million acres (170.3 million hectares), up from 395 million acres (160 million hectares) in 2011.
    • This is an increase of 25.8 million acre (10.3 million hectare) increase, or 6 percent. 
  • In 2012, biotech crops were grown in 28 countries. It is noteworthy that 20 of these countries were in the developing world, and 8 were industrialized countries.
    •  For the first time ever, developing countries grew a greater share of biotech crops worldwide than developed countries: 52 percent of global biotech crops, compared to 48 percent in industrial countries. The growth rate for biotech crops in developing countries (11 percent or 21 million acres)  was at least three times as fast, and five times as large as in industrial countries (3 percent or 4 million acres).
  • In 2012, biotech crops were grown by 17.3 million farmers, up from 16.7 million in 2011.
    • 90 percent (more than 15 million) are resource-poor smallholders in developing countries. 
  • Just 17 years after commercialization, accumulated biotech crops exceeded 1.5 billion hectares (3.7 billion acres) in 2012. This covers an area 50 percent larger than the total land mass of the United States or China.
    • With an unprecedented 100-fold increase between 1996 and 2012, biotech crops are the fastest-adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.
  • The top five developing countries are China, India, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa.
    • Collectively they grew 78.2 million hectares, 46 percent of global biotech crops, and together they represent about 40 percent of the global population.
    • Africa continued to make progress in 2012 with South Africa increasing its biotech area by a record 0.6 million hectares (1.5 million acres) to reach 2.9 million hectares (7.1 million acres). Sudan joined South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt in planting biotech crops, bringing the total number of African biotech countries to four.


  • The 2012 ISAAA report adds increasing evidence that agricultural biotechnology is a key component in sustainable crop production. Biotechnology provides solutions for today’s farmers in the form of plants that yield more per acre, resist diseases and insect pests, and reduce farmers’ production costs, pesticide applications and on-farm fuel use.
  • More and more farmers around the world (17.3 million) are turning to biotechnology so they can grow plants that yield more per acre and reduce production costs while being resistant to disease and insect pests.
  • When you look at the rising number of acres of biotech crops planted each year, and the increasing number of farmers who have chosen this technology, it can’t be denied that biotech crops are delivering value to more and more growers around the world.
  • The United States continued to be the lead producer of biotech crops with more than 172 million acres of biotech crops planted in 2012, with an average adoption rate of about 90 percent across all biotech crops. The primary biotech crops grown in the United States are corn, cotton, soybeans, and sugarbeets, and others include canola, squash, papaya, and alfalfa.
  • The productivity gains from biotechnology are enabling us to better feed a global population at a time when food insecurity is becoming a global concern. Agricultural biotechnology is able to deliver more abundant crops that produce more food, often in areas with less-than-perfect growing conditions.  
  • Ag biotechnology also has environmental benefits because biotech crop varieties require less cultivation and fewer pesticide applications, thereby saving fuel and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the air. This also improves soil health and water retention.  
  • Embracing innovation and modern science can help us solve the world’s most pressing problems. People who really want to combat hunger, to keep food costs affordable, to protect the environment and to mitigate climate change are adopting agricultural biotechnology and embracing the solutions that it provides.
  • As food insecurity becomes an increasing global concern, the productivity gains from biotechnology are enabling society to better feed a global population using less land, water and a reduced carbon footprint.
  • During the past two decades, we have seen how biotechnology can improve crop production through insect resistance and herbicide tolerant traits. But in the development pipeline are crops that thrive in drought-prone areas, can improve the nutrition content of foods and can produce alternative energy sources. 
  • The continued adoption of the technology in developed and developing countries is testament to the importance of the technology to farmers and food and fuel production around the world. It is also an indication that governments and societies recognize what investment in the technology can mean to their countries’ and the world’s ability to combat hunger with reduced environmental impact.   
  • The findings of this report prove that the United States and countries around the world are turning to science and technology to meet today’s challenges in agriculture, and food and energy production.  


The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) report, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2012 and accompanying materials are posted at