The amount of land devoted to genetically engineered crops grew 10% last year, and 7% in the year before, as farmers in major grain and soy exporting countries such as Brazil and Argentina continued to adopt the new seeds.
These so-called biotech crops, often bred with genes that allow them to tolerate weed killers or generate their own insecticides, now cover 10% of the world's farmland, up from nothing just 15 years ago.
The figures are in this year's International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications report, out Tuesday. Of the four most commonly planted biotech crops, a rising percentage of the total of all plantings are biotech. In 2010, 81% of all soybeans, 64% of cotton, 29% of corn and 23% of canola globally were from biotech seeds, the ISAAA says.
The most common modification is herbicide tolerance, where plants are given a gene that allows farmers to spray them with the weed killer glyphosate, known to most home gardeners as Roundup, without harming them. Sixty-one percent of biotech crops carry this gene.