Somewhere around the world, likely around Sunday, May 8 or Monday, May 9, 2005, the one billionth cumulative acre of biotech crops was planted, as reported by the policy analysts for Truth About Trade and Technology (TATT).

Just how big is a billion acres? It’s really big. A billion square acres would cover the entire land area of the European Union’s 25 countries. (World Factbook, 2004)

For a prospective on the magnitude of the growth in biotech plants, though it has taken the past 10 years to achieve that milestone, at the present double-digit growth rate, it won’t be more than four years until the second billion acres of biotech crop plantings is reached. In 2004 alone, more than eight million farmers planted 200 million acres of biotech crops in 17 countries.

More here.
See Pioneer Hi-Bred’s Comment.

This comes on the heels of the introduction by Syngenta of genetically engineered golden rice, “Golden rice 2” that contains up to 23 times more provitamin A, the substance converted in the body into vitamin A. This vitamin is vital for preventing childhood blindness, which affects 500,000 children worldwide each year.

The breakthrough was achieved by replacing a gene originally borrowed from daffodils, and which also has a counterpart from maize. Critics of the original golden rice said that its levels of provitamin A – 1.6 micrograms per gram of rice – were too low to make the rice a practical proposition. But each gram of the new strain contains up to 37 micrograms of the provitamin. The new rice could provide at least half what a child would need and might now contain enough to supply the entire recommended daily intake.

But critics point out that it remains to be proven that the provitamin A is absorbed and converted into vitamin A when people eat the rice. However, questions about the uptake of provitamin A, also known as beta carotene, could be answered later in 2005 through experiments in people using the original golden rice.

Syngenta owns Golden Rice 2, but is donating it to the Humanitarian Rice Board.

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