GENETICALLY MODIFIED crops are now grown by over 16.7 million farmers in 29 countries covering 160 million hectares of land.
This is an 8% increase compared with last year, according to figures released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
Particularly striking is the fact that farmers in developing countries have doubled their plantings of GM, with 50% of worldwide biotech crops now grown in such areas.
However, the UK and Europe are still seen as laggards when it comes to acceptance of the technology. Last month at the Oxford Farming Conference, both the Farming Minister, Jim Paice, and his Labour counterpart, Mary Creagh, hinted that the time is right to look at the technology afresh. "GM is not the answer to everything, but in the foreseeable future we'll have nitrogen-fixing wheat if that isn't going to be a major development I don't know what is, said Paice.
Rothamsted Research, based in the UK, has also been granted approval from ACRE (the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment) to undertake research of GM wheat modified to produce a pheromone that repels aphids.
ABC, the group representing the agricultural biotechnology industry in the UK, said the ISAAA results proved that genetic modification was a technology that works for any type of farmer.
With a growing world population, soaring demand and the impact of climate change putting pressure on production, agricultural technologies are playing an increasingly important role in boosting food security. In Europe, this is hampered by a dysfunctional approvals process that denies farmers the choice of using biotechnologies, explained chairman Julian Little.
Andrea Graham from the National Farmers Union said farmers were not being given the same opportunities as their counterparts outside of Europe which is hampering their competitiveness and preventing us from having the opportunity to explore the potential environmental benefits and other positive traits this technology can offer.
Marchs Foodservice Footprint will include a in-depth take on the state of the GM debate.