Total area under transgenic crops went up by 3 per cent globally in 2017 to nearly 190 million hectares (mha) from around 185 mha in the previous year, according to a report by an organisation that tracks GM acreages around the world.

This increase is due primarily to greater profitability stemming from higher commodity prices, increased global and domestic market demand, and available seed technologies, said the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) in the report.

“The recent production of next generation biotech crops – including apples and potatoes that are not likely to spoil or become damaged, anthocyanin-enriched super sweet pineapple, increased ear biomass and high amylose content maize, and soybeans with modified oil content, combined with the commercialisation approval for an insect resistant sugarcane – provide more diverse offerings to consumers and food producers,” said Paul S Teng, a top ISAAA official.

According to the ISAAA report titled Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2017, India, where an area of 11.4 mha is under biotech crops, is fifth largest in GM cultivation after the US, Brazil, Argentina and Canada.

A complementary study, GM Crops: Global Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts 1996-2016, brought out by P G Economics, UK-based consultancy firm specialising in GM crops, said that biotech crops provided $186.1 billion in economic gains to some 17 million farmers, many of whom are female and smallholder farmers in the last two decades.

“Global food insecurity is a huge problem in developing countries, with around 108 million people in food crisis-affected countries still at risk or experiencing food insecurity,” said Graham Brookes, Director of PG Economics and co-author of the socio-economic and environmental impact paper.