Cultivation of GM crops on the rise

Could 8 million farmers be wrong? Well, yes, contend a growing number of critics of genetically modified crops. Despite widespread resistance to GM foods abroad and in some areas of the U.S. (OK, California), the planting of bioengineered crops is on the rise in 17 GM-friendly countries. There, farmers grew 200 million acres of the controversial plants last year, up 20 percent from 2003, according to a report by the industry group International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAABA to its roughly 8 million farmer friends). That’s tremendous growth for such a young industry: In 1996, the first year GM crops were commercially available, only about 4.3 million acres were under cultivation. But by 2010, predicts ISAABA Chair Clive James, worldwide acreage of biotech crops could double from this year’s figures, fueled by China’s expected OK of GM rice. GM proponents tout the technology as a solution to hunger and poverty, while opponents contend too little is known about potential effects on human health and the environment.