Genetically modified crops are on the increase, although there is still widespread scepticism about their benefits in Europe. Only one GM crop is grown in Europe: an insect-resistant maize, developed by Monsanto, that accounts for 2% of maize grown in the EU.
Most GM crops are destined as animal feed for the meat and livestock markets in rich countries or for biofuels, and thus do not help the poor. In a report about the issue, environmental organisation Friends of the Earth says that since biotech crops tend to be "part of the intensive farming model", they contribute to small farmers losing their land and therefore do not alleviate poverty. They also point out that there was a 15-fold increase in use of the herbicide glyphosate, also known as Roundup in the US between 1994 and 2004. "This is resulting in increasing numbers of glyphosate-resistant weeds around the world, leading to higher production costs for farmers as well as concerns about the environmental impact,ö they say. Roundup, which is made by Monsanto, is extensively used with GM crops.
The biotech body International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) has just produced a report in which statistics for GM plantings for 2007 are released. Amongst other things, it says that GM foods are now grown in eight European countries, with Spain leading the group. And biotech crops in the US include soybeans, which are the most popular GM crop grown worldwide, along with corn, cotton, canola, squash, papaya and alfalfa.
In India, insect-resistant cotton is expected to account for 80% of the crop in the next two to three years. The bt-cotton, which has short sequences of genes from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis incorporated into it so that the crop expresses the same insect-resistant properties as the bacteria does, was first grown experimentally in India in 2002.