SAO PAULO: Brazil is on course to overtake the United States as the world's top producer of biotech crops in the coming years, a leading promoter of farm biotechnology said Tuesday.
The United States currently holds the lead with 69 million hectares (170 million acres) under biocrop cultivation in 2011, ahead of Brazil with 30.3 million, Argentina with 23.7 million and India with 10.6 million, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) said.
But USAAA, a government-funded international body promoting the use of farm biotechnology, particularly in developing countries, said that for the third year in a row, Brazil was last year the engine of global biocrop growth, with 4.9 million hectares added, a rise of 20 percent from 2010.
Speaking in a teleconference from the Philippines, ISAAA president Clive James said that while the United States was currently well ahead, "Brazil is closing the gap very quickly" and bringing in new biotech crops like sugar cane.
Brazil has eight million hectares of sugar cane, the largest in the world, and is expected to increase it by 50 percent in the next five years for both ethanol and sugar production, he noted.
"I believe that in the long term, Brazil, will become the number one country in the world in terms of total soybean acreage," James said.
"It will take some time, but I think the political will (in Brazil) is there and the target is to increase productivity through biotechnology for the domestic market and also for large export markets, particularly China," he added.
ISAAA meanwhile highlighted a 94-fold increase in biotech crop cultivation around the world from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 160 million hectares last year.
Of 29 countries planting transgenic crops last year, 19 were emerging or developing nations and 10 were in the industrialized world, the group said.
A record 16.7 million farmers, up eight percent from 2010, grew biotech crops, including 15 million who were resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
The five top biotech crop producers in the emerging world were India and China in Asia, Brazil and Argentina in Latin America and South Africa on the African continent. Together they represent 40 percent of the global population.
Six European Union countries planted a record 114,490 hectares of genetically modified maize, up 26 percent from 2010 while in China, seven million farmers grew a record 3.9 million hectares of genetically modified cotton. AGENCIES