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Nature in News Feature of May 1 2013, has a quite interesting compilation of the data on GM crop adoption and use in developed and developing countries. The fact that a majority of adoption has been on four crops (cotton, canola, corn and soybeans) and two traits (insect protection and herbicide tolerance plus stacked products that have one or more of each) is nothing new. Furthermore, most of the adoption has been of products from the private sector, particularly multinational corporations. Yet this is not the whole story. As we have reported over time, there are many nuances which need to be discussed in order to properly describe the history and the potential future of GM crops globally.

1) As we have documented in previous studies done by us at IFPRI, there are multiple events in the regulatory and development pipeline by the public sector in developed and developing countries. The Next Harvest project documented several such events in 16 developing countries. This is an older study, which we are in the process of updating in four countries in Africa. Hopefully we can get the funding to update the data for Asia and Latin America.

2) There are significant investments by the public and private sector in developing countries in agricultural biotechnology including some in genetically modifications and other advanced/modern biotechnologies. An example of such investments are those for Latin America in the study by IFPRI/BID “La Biotecnologia en America Latina”.

3) There have been few releases by the public sector to date that have been used commercially to a significant degree. In fact, I am aware of two events of insect resistant cotton in India and China, the Golden Mosaic Virus resistant beans released by EMBRAPA in Brazil, and the viral resistant papaya used in Hawaii. There are other quite interesting projects in the pipeline such as the Golden Rice to be released by the Humanitarian Board/IRRI/other partners, the Bt cowpea, the Water Efficienty Maize for Africa (WEMA), viral resistant cassava, drought tolerant sugarcane in Indonesia,and many others. I expect that there will be many more technologies that will be released to farmers in the near future, unless there is significant opposition to their release.

In my mind, one of the big questions we need to ask is why these technnologies have not moved readily through the regulatory and product development pipeline? This will be the objective of further posts in this blog, one of the issues is precisely what Golden Rice is enduring right now, pressures introduced to delay and/or to stop the release of the technology introduced by different interest groups. More to come on this discussion.

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