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Biotech Crops Keep Gaining Ground

Latest USDA data, released Friday, shows more acres keep planting high-tech crops adding another 11.1 million acres for 2006.

Friday's crop report includes USDA's annual look at the advancement of biotechnology on corn, soybean and upland crop acres. This year's report shows biotech corn - including Bt, herbicide resistant and stacked varieties - went on more acres in 2006 than 2005.

For 2006, the number of acres planted to all biotech crops rose by 9 percentage points to 62%. The report shows that Bt corn stayed steady, but the number of acres planted to stacked gene varieties is up from 9% of acres to 15% - a significant boost.

For soybeans, long the darling biotech crop thanks to glyphosate tolerance success, the increase is minor and given the statistical variability of the study remains about the same as 2005 with about 89% of acres planted to the technology.

Upland cotton, where Bt and glyphosate-tolerance technology have been popular the percent of acres planted to all types of biotech rose from 79 to 83%. However, the biggest gains came in stacked-trait varieties while Bt-only and herbicide-resistant-only acres stayed flat.

The group Truth About Trade and Technology notes that total acres of biotech corn, soybeans, cotton and canola planted for 2006 rose by 11.1 million acres to 128.3 million acres. "This report confirms our earlier estimate that somewhere in the world in early June of this year the 1.3 billionth acre of biotech crops was planted since commercial production began in 1996," says Dean Kleckner, chairman.

The group estimates that total biotech plantings in 2006 in the northern hemisphere are at 145 million acres in 14 countries. In the southern hemisphere in 2005 plantings topped 72 million acres and could exceed 80 million acres in 2006.

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