ISAAA, with Novartis on the board and corporate largesse filling their coffers, turn out an annual South Sea Bubble report aimed at selling GM crops as great because... there's a lot of 'em!

Despite the following FT headline, however, note that the rate of increase has actually dived: "this year.. the increase in take-up was only a quarter of that registered in 1999".

After the various disasters and embarrassments of the last 12 months -- not least Starlink, it'll be interesting to see what rise there is, if any, in 2001.

Demand for GM crops rising
By Michela Wrong
Published: December 20 2000 22:39GMT | Last Updated: December 21 2000
Financial Times

Global demand from farmers for genetically modified crops continued to grow this year but the increase in take-up was only a quarter of that registered in 1999, an end-of-year study shows.

The area sown worldwide with GM soybean, maize, rape, cotton and potato grew 11 per cent to 109.2m acres, equivalent to twice the surface of the UK. That compared with a 44 per cent rise the previous year and 150 per cent in 1998.

Tracked by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), the trend was hailed by the biotech industry as evidence that opposition from environmentalists had failed to halt the technology's advance.

"Despite continued, totally unfounded rumours to the contrary, these figures show farmers love the benefits of biotechnology," said Tony Combes, a spokesman for Monsanto, the life sciences group. But anti-GM campaigners claimed that the levelling-out showed that farmers were starting to question the marketability and practical benefits of the controversial new varieties, originally touted as requiring fewer chemicals and offering higher yields.

"This is a withering rather than a maturing market," said Pete Riley of Friends of the Earth. "Things are changing as farmers begin to question the supposed benefits of what they are sold and uncertainties over export markets grow."

The December review by ISAAA, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving agriculture in the developing world, estimated that GM plantings increased more than 25-fold over the past five years.

Growth was at its sharpest this year in the developing world, which registered a 51 per cent rise in plantings, while expansion showed signs of reaching a plateau in industrial countries, at just two per cent.

Plantings of GM maize actually went down in the US and Canada, a trend that the ISAAA study's author attributed to uncertainty about markets and low infestation of the corn borer parasite, which periodically blights crops. But that still left four countries - the US, Canada, Argentina and China - accounting for 99 per cent of the global transgenic crop area.