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AGRICULTURE REPORT - March 18, 2003: Trade in Genetically Engineered Crops, Part 2 - 2003-03-17

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

We continue our look at the influence of genetically engineered crops on agricultural trade. Last week, we discussed how policy differences can lead to changes in export trade. We noted that such crops have helped Argentina, for example, greatly increase its trade with Europe.

In two-thousand, Argentina grew twenty-three percent of the world’s genetically engineered crops. In fact, just four countries produced ninety-nine percent of all the genetically engineered crops that year. Canada and China were also among them. But the United States produced the most of all.

More countries now take part in the market for what are called biotechnology or transgenic crops. However, a few countries control huge parts of some markets.

Genetically engineered soybeans are an example. In two-thousand, six countries supplied one-hundred-sixteen nations. Those six countries controlled most of the market.

Developing countries may see genetically engineered crops as a way to increase food production. By growing them, developing nations could supply their own food needs. However, a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington says this goal is not realistic. The report says developing nations could harm their natural resources by trying to produce enough crops to reach food security.

Developing countries do produce and use most of the world supply of some crops. These include rice, millet, cassava, sweet potatoes and bananas. Yet scientists have engineered few kinds of these crops. Instead, most of the investment has gone into canola, corn, cotton and soybeans. Developed nations that support transgenic research have been able to increase production and exports.

Public opinion, of course, is divided about genetically engineered products. But the Food and Agriculture Organization supports agricultural policies that bring together genetic and other technologies. The United Nations agency says current investment in research is aimed toward richer nations. The F-A-O says it wants to make sure developing nations gain more.

Next week, we will explore how some countries are sharing agricultural technology with farmers in Africa.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter.