Launch of new website: FUNDACIÓN ANTAMA – 15 years of Bt Maize in Spain.
15 years ago, the European Union allowed for the first time the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Bt maize pioneered the EU framework, becoming the first biotech crop that European farmers had access to. Since then, the commitment to these seeds has grown steadily, reflecting the farmer’s confidence in this technology. Spain is the leader in the EU, with the largest number of hectares of Bt maize.
Despite the strong demand from farmers, the EU is still reluctant to openly bet on this technology. Ideological arguments directly conflict with scientific arguments and are slowing down the progress of a technology to which European farmers do not have free access, but whose production abroad is imported without problems. Lets therefore observe the situation in Spain and the EU in the field of GMOs.
Bt corn MON810 is a genetically modified variety (GM) which has properties that make it resistant to the European corn borer. This is an insect that attacks the maize plant and causes losses to up to 30% of the total crop. The area in which this pest is most active is the Ebro Valley, Spain. Since its first use, farmers have been mainly cultivating this kind GM maize.
To become immune to this pest, Bt maize contains a natural protein of the soil called Bacillus Thuringiensis. This bacterum is only harmful to the worm hole, so it does not affect other insects. It is also completely harmless to humans.
BT MAIZE IN SPAIN
Spain leads the EU Bt maize planting. In 2012, Spain reached the historical record of 111,306 cultivated hectares, representing 30% of the total corn grain sold in Spain throughout the year.
Aragón is an autonomous community with the largest cultivating surface area of Bt maize, having 41,669.39 hectares. It is followed by Catalonia and Extremadura, with 33,350.86 and 15,951.53 hectares.
Spanish farmers achieved an additional gross margin of over 11 million euros in 2012 thanks to the cultivation of genetically modified maize resistant to the corn borer plague. The figures, obtained from the report in the Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research which determines the main additional gross margin of Bt maize, is 95 euros per hectare. From 1996 to 2012 Spanish farmers achieved an additional gross margin that exceded 78 million euros.
Another benefit of Bt maize is the increase of production through a more sustainable approach by reducing the use of resources per production unit (less soil, water and energy).
The EU continues to lag behind on GMOs. In Europe, five EU countries (Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania) planted 129,071 hectares of biotech Bt maize. Despite this being a record, it is still much lower than its commercial competitors from whom we are buying the production of GM crops.
European politicians face the challenge of ensuring that its farmers are not dependent on the import of biotech products and that they are able to compete equally.
It is estimated that if European farmers could grow GM varieties authorized in competing countries, they could have an additional income between 443 and 929 million euros a year.
The global area of GM crops reached 170.3 million hectares in 2012. A total of 17.3 million farmers grew biotech seeds last year, 600,000 farmers more than in 2011. More than half of the cultivated area (52%) is in developing countries. The remaining 48% corresponds to land in developed countries.
More than 90% of farmers who planted GM seeds in 2012 (over 15 million) were resource-poor farmers in developing countries. In these countries, the adoption of such crops was 3 times faster than in developed countries.
A total of 28 countries grew GM seeds in 2012. 20 of these were developing countriesand, 8 were industrialized countries. 60% of the world population (4 billion people) live In these 28countries.
Report accepted for publication in the Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research (SJAR) "How can specific market demand for non-GM maize affect the profitability of Bt and conventional maize? A case study for the middle Ebro Valley, Spain" (ref. 448/11) by L. Riesgo, F. J. Areal, and E. Rodríguez-Cerezo. Published in 2012, Vol. 10 No. 4.