14 November 2001
GM take-up ‘faster than computers’

By Andrew Blake

GENETICALLY modified crops are being taken up faster worldwide than computers ever were, despite marketing fears and physical threats, claims Monsanto.

Nearly 50 million hectares (125m acres) of such crops were grown in 2001 – up from 1.7m ha (4.2m acres) in 1996 – their first commercial season.

“Adoption by farmers has been phenomenal,” the firms Harvey Glick told the British Crop Protection Conference in Brighton on Wednesday (14 November).

“In spite of the economic risks of not being able to market them, and even physical threats, farmers have taken to them in a remarkable fashion.”

Nothing like it has been seen since hybrid maize was introduced in the 1920s, he maintained.

The myth that farmers are being duped into growing crops that benefit only big GM corporations has also been dispelled, said Malcolm Devine of Aventis.

“There are claims that GM crops are the crack cocaine of agriculture. The truth is very different.”

Three-quarters of the Canadian canola crop was of GM types last year.

There, a Canola Council survey of 650 growers in western Canada found the extra C$25/acre they gave was a key to keeping farms profitable, said Mr Devine.

“$25 doesnt sound a lot, but farmers are operating on the margin over large areas.

“These crops make the difference between staying above or going under the line. Farmers are voting with their cheque books.”

Dr Glick acknowledged fears that widespread use of glyphosate will lead to weed resistance and so jeopardise farm businesses.

“Every technology creates issues and transgenic crops are no different. Managing resistance needs systems.

“All of us recognise we must manage efficiently to avoid creating problems.”