Biotechnology-enhanced crops enjoyed a bumper year in 2008, with an additional 26.4 million acres planted globally and growth prospects set to expand rapidly. About 13.3 million farmers in a record 25 countries planted 308.8 million acres of biotech crops last year, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) said in its annual report. It reflected a 9.4% increase in area covered from 282.4 million acres in 2007, the group said. An additional 1.3 million farmers adopted biotechnology last year. “Future growth prospects are encouraging,” said ISAAA Chairman Clive James, author of the study.

James said political leaders were increasingly viewing biotech-enhanced crops as a “key part of the solution to critical social issues of food security and sustainability.” Soybeans continued to be the principal biotech crop in 2008, occupying 53% of global biotech acres, followed by corn (30%), cotton (12%) and canola (5%). Of the global biotech farmers in 2008, more than 90% were small and resource-poor farmers from developing countries. Others were large farmers from both industrialized nations, such as the U.S. and Canada, and developing countries, such as Argentina and Brazil. The U.S. produces more than half of the world's biotech-enhanced crops.

The largest increase in the number of biotech farmers in 2008 was in India. Seven European Union countries also increased their biotech-enhanced crop planting by 21%. To view an executive summary and report highlights, go to www.isaaa.org/.