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April 12, 2005


Ignoring Genetics is Disastrous; Scientifically Sound; Superfast Trees; Reason Triumphs Over Dogma; Bt Cotton in India


Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: April 12, 2005

* To Ignore Genetics Is To Invite Disaster
* GM Crops are Scientifically Unsound?
* Well, What A Surprise?
* Everything is Possible with Determination
* Superfast GM Trees to Help Tropical Reforestation!
* Biotechnology and GM Crops
* India: Bt Cotton Leads to Better Yields, Reduce Pesticide Use & Higher Profits

To Ignore Genetics Is To Invite Disaster

- Tony Baker, The Advertiser (Australia), April 8, 2005

Millions of years ago, it was a small, foxlike, forest browser, a curious animal giving no hint of what was to come. The result of the twists and turns of evolution was that in central Asia some 6000 years ago its successor, the creature equus, was domesticated to the modern horse. Since then it has become essential to travel, war, agriculture, and leisure.

Today - ask any punter - billions of dollars are devoted to breeding horses that will be faster than other horses. Grains were also domesticated along with farm animals. The result: agriculture and modern civilisation. Dogs have been bred into scores of shapes, sizes and dispositions. Gardeners go for the new and perfect rose. All of which - and there are very many others - are examples of genetic modification.

Today scientific advances are producing quantum leaps in genetic modification and engineering. To deny them seems to me to make about as much sense as refusing to use anaesthesia in surgery because it is new and radical.

These background thoughts of mine have been brought into sharp focus by an Adelaide scientist, Professor Mark Tester, of the University of Adelaide. In the University's publication, The Adelaidean,he sets out the case in layman's language.

World food grain production must be doubled by 2050 to meet the demands of a growing population. "Even under ideal conditions, it would be difficult to increase crop production much beyond current levels," says Professor Tester. To compound the problem, most crop-growing conditions are far from ideal and there are limits to how much a plant can cope with drought, salinity and low temperatures.

Crops have to be developed which will be more tolerant of these stresses. This is not just a matter of feeding the Third World, desperately important as that is. Salinity alone costs the Australian wheat industry $1.3 billion a year. The problem is here and it is global. So are the makings of the solution.

Professor Tester: "In large centres such as the Australian Centre for Plant Function Genomics and the Waite campus of the University of Adelaide, there is now a critical mass of researchers who have the chance to make significant breakthroughs in plant science and crop improvement."

As a scientist should, Professor Tester uses measured language and confines himself to his speciality. More robustly, I would say it would be almost criminally myopic not to make the most of this historic opportunity and, by extension, other opportunities presented by the new genetics.

From the perspective of this time and this place there seem to be two compelling considerations. It is a path to prosperity for future South Australia. It is a service to humanity. You need only ask yourself what would happen as a consequence of global famine. The wars and crises over oil supplies which are the central feature of the geo-politics of 2005 would be a sideshow by comparison.

GM Crops are Scientifically Unsound?

- Chris Preston

James MacGregor (AgBioView April 7) raises a number of issues in his challenge to GM Crops (GM Crops are Scientifically Unsound). I do not conduct GM research myself, but I do have a role in reviewing some applications for deliberate release of GM crops into the field. While regulations are different in different jurisdictions, I have considerable knowledge of the regulatory system for GM crops in Australia.

All initial GM modification work is done under strict containment conditions. This is not because the work is dangerous per se, but because the potential risks to the environment have not been assessed. There is a lot of work done in laboratories creating gene knockouts of plants to determine the roles of specific genes. For studies such as these, the consequences are unknown; otherwise there would be no point in doing the research. The vast majority of the GM plants created in laboratories are not intended to ever be release into the environment.

Where there is intention to release GM plants into the environment, the next stage is to conduct limited scale field trials. For these "Deliberate Releases" a risk assessment of their release into the environment must be undertaken. This risk assessment has to identify potential risks and to determine methods of managing that risk. Studies conducted under contained conditions in glasshouses will have already assessed the material for differences in characters such as morphology, seed dormancy or flowering behaviour that may change the behaviour of the plant in the field. At this stage, there will be conditions placed on the trial to ensure that the GM material does not remain in the environment. These limited field trials are often used to assess potential risks.

The final stage is a where the regulator is satisfied that all potential risks to human health or the environment can be adequately managed such that the GM crop will not be any more damaging than non-GM cultivars of that crop. The field trials are used to assess the performance of the crop in the field, its potential weediness and other traits that may contribute to the crop becoming a problem in the environment. At this stage, there may still be conditions placed on the commercial use of the crop.

James MacGregor asks why the safety guidelines so rigorously practiced in the laboratory are not practiced in the field. The answer is simple. For laboratory work, the risks to the environment have either not been assessed or have not been managed. As researchers identify from experimental work that the GM crop behaves no differently to its non-GM counterparts, except for the newly introduced trait, they are able to convince the regulator that there is no greater risk to the environment. In fact, in Australia for all the crops that have been given the commercial go ahead the regulator has found they will not be more damaging to human health and the environment than non-GM cultivars already grown.

James MacGregor makes a second point that GM crops will undergo evolution in the environment and we cannot predict the outcome of that. It is indeed true that the outcome of evolution is unknown, sometimes predictable, but often not. The outcome of evolution on non-GM crops is simmilarly unpredictable. However, should we be concerned about this? At one level, probably not. Most crop cultivars are turned over relatively quickly. I could give an example of canola cultivars, which have a lifetime of around 5 years. For such crops, the company makes a lot of foundation seed that has a very high level of purity and stores this. Some of the foundation seed is provided to farmers to bulk up into certified seed. The certified seed is then sold to farmers, who may choose to grow some of the crop to provide farmer seed for a year or so.

To make more certified seed, they go back to the foundation seed lot. The crop grown by the farmer is rarely more than a few generations from the foundation seed lot, insufficient time for new mutations to reach any frequency in the crop. So, there is no danger of evolution playing a significant role in changing the material grown as a crop. If the crop were to escape into the environment and persist, then the possibility of further evolution exists. Unless there is positive selection for a newly arisen trait, it takes a long time for the trait to reach its equilibrium frequency in the population. Feral crops are evolving all the time, but the fact that new crop genes continually leak into the feral populations tends to constrain evolution in the ferals to make them more like the cultivated crops. Indeed, the risks of further evolution are identical for GM and non-GM cultivars, provided the GM trait is not selected for in the environment.

From his comments James MacGregor appears to believe there is a fundamental difference in behaviour between GM crops and non-GM crops in the environment. Otherwise, he might usefully ask why there is no safety assessment for non-GM crops when they are released into the environment. For example, I have been involved in the breeding of a herbicide tolerant cultivar of medic, which we intend to release next year. In breeding this crop we chose to take a non-GM pathway because we believed we could create the allele of interest through chemical mutagenesis and didn't want to get bogged down in the paperwork of the GM route. There is no requirement for regulation, risk assessment or risk management for this crop and no requirement for further evaluation once it is in the field. Yet, for an identical GM version of the crop, some would state it could not be released because we don't know the outcome.

This concept of a fundamental difference in behaviour between GM and non-GM breeding is a fiction popularised by anti-GM campaigners such as ISIS and Greenpeace. In fact, much of the anti-GM campaign is sustained on this fiction alone. There is in fact no hard evidence that breeding via GM is any more harmful to human heath and the environment than are non-GM breeding methods. Even the FSE studies, often touted as 'proving' that GM crops are harmful for wildlife, merely showed that some herbicides killed more weeds than others. If having more weeds in crops is useful for the environment, this can be achieved quite simply by demanding that a certain area of each crop has no weed control practiced. Playing around with different types and rates of herbicide to try and have a certain number of weeds is fraught with danger. Either you get too few or too many weeds. I have stated previously that one outcome of the FSE was to demonstrate that GM canola had more biodiversity than non-GM maize. However, I have yet to hear a demand from any group for a replacement of non-GM maize with GM canola.

I trust James MacGregor is enjoying his career away from GM crops, but I am sad that anybody has felt they needed to depart from a career because of a fiction perpetrated by activists.

- Dr. Christopher Preston, Senior Lecturer, Weed Management, University of Adelaide

Well, What A Surprise?

- Dominion Post, New Zealand; April 7, 2005

I was somewhat dismayed to read the AFP report headlined, GM crops harm wildlife: study (March 23). The report did not conclude that GM crops harm wildlife. The researchers carefully stated that the trials were testing weedkilling regimes, not GM crops. So using weedkillers harms wildlife. What a surprise.

The news agency missed this salient point. Words such as "marginally" seemed to be lost in translation, though "seriously" managed to be inserted.

The trials were relevant only to the use of GM herbicide-resistant crops, not to any other GM product. Even if such crops are banned, this is hardly a "major blow" to the biotech industry (see Monsanto shares soar despite anti-GE lobby in the same edition).

Any major blow to the industry would be thanks to widespread misreporting.

GM does bring major issues for debate and New Zealanders deserve to be properly informed.

Gloating activists should note that farmers can turn to herbicide-resistant oil seed rape conventionally developed by Dupont. Being non-GM, this can be grown without restriction, despite using a more harmful herbicide regime.

- Mike Kean, Levin


Everything is Possible with Determination

- Bruce Venter, IOL News (South Africa) April 11, 2005 via checkbiotech.org

Poverty and the vision to empower her community led Sabina Khoza of Zuurbekom to turn her attention to a vacant stretch of scrubland fringing the outskirts of Soweto.

"I saw an opportunity to not only feed my family, but to feed my community too," said Khoza, who 15 years ago sunk her roots into the ground with money from her husband's pension. "People were wary at first, but when they saw everything is possible with determination, I enjoyed their support," said the 52-year-old.

Strolling through her fields, flourishing beneath the healthy burden of maize and vegetables, Khoza's transformation of barren land into a fertile agricultural enterprise is apparent. "I am a small-scale farmer with big dreams," she laughs.

Khoza leapt into her project in 1988 with 10 chickens, "a few farming text books" and a boldness to embrace innovation and risk. She now produces 150 000 birds annually, has been the recipient of the Female Farmer of the Year Award and boasts with the presidency of the Gauteng Provincial Farmers' Union.

Encouraged by her success, Khoza ventured into maize and vegetables. "I now grow maize and vegetables and run a training project for emergent farmers," she said. Students get to perfect their skills on the eight-hectare farm during a six-week stint, in which Khoza drills them in all aspects of small-scale agriculture. "It is a way of empowering individuals and communities to take charge of their destiny and welfare," she said.

Former student Samuel Tshabalala, of KwaMhlanga north of Pretoria, says his stay at the training project taught him a valuable lesson. "It's not just about learning to work the land... empowering yourself and working to uplift your community is what I really learnt," says the 43-year-old paraplegic. Close to 100 trainees, most of them women, have graduated and subsequently launched their own enterprises.

Khoza explained that to increase her maize yield, she turned to genetically-modified (GM) maize. This decision increased her harvest by 27 percent. "Yield capacity and disease resistance are important to small-scale farmers... the benefits are poverty reduction and increased food security," she said.

Her produce is sold within her local community and to retail outlets. But, according to Khoza, the enterprise is not immune to challenges."Money is always tight and marketing the produce can be difficult on the formal market." Rainfall was also a worry, explained Khoza's farm manager, Michael Magodi,26, who graduated from the training centre two years ago.

"We need to plant produce that will sell. This means we need to stay abreast of market trends," he said. Plans are in the making to expand into livestock, but for now, says Khoza, it's time to consolidate and continue improving the lives of the community.

Admiring rows of ripening maize, it's apparent that Khoza's ownership of the land is not only flourishing in the red soil, but is bonded by her philosophy of caring for people by caring for the land.


Superfast GM Trees May Help Tropical Reforestation and Reverse the Ecological Damage!

CBD's 'Giving Tree'

- Zuri Dar, Haaretz News, April 11, 2005

About six months ago movie-goers were offered "The Day After Tomorrow," which portrays environmental damage building up and snowballing, and leading to an ecological catastrophe that suddenly returns planet earth to the Ice Age. Although this was "only a movie," the greenhouse effect, for example, is gaining momentum at an alarming rate. Every month the newspapers are full of reports on the hole in the ozone above Australia, the melting polar ice caps, vicious hurricanes in the United States and the giant tsunamis in Asia--now an Israeli company has some enhanced help.

The greenhouse effect is exacerbated by the destruction of the tropical rain forests even more than by the gases emitted by cars and industrial plants, because the trees recycle the carbon-dioxide and act as the earth's lungs.

"Each year the natural forest area cleared worldwide equals the size of Portugal - five times the size of Israel," says Dr. Stanley Hirsch, CEO of CBD Technologies, a bio-tech startup in Rehovot. "In Southeast Asia - in countries like Indonesia - the trees are not only cut down, but millions of acres of them are burned to make way for agriculture. The ecological damage is immense."

CBD has found a solution: The company has developed a unique technology that accelerates tree growth and could halt the destruction of the rain forests. The technology is based on a gene called "cellulose binding domain," which was discovered by Prof. Oded Shoseyov of the agriculture faculty at Hebrew University in Rehovot and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

At first, CBD focused on the biological separation of molecules, mainly for the pharmaceutical industry. In 2000, however, the company changed its direction and began delving into the genetic modification of plants. The company attempted to slow the growth of trees via the CBD gene, but research found that this gene can actually effect the opposite result. Following this discovery, CBD spent the past two years developing a method for treating plants in order to accelerate their growth and enhance them.

How does this work? The CBD gene is introduced into the DNA of young plant cells, thus altering the plant's properties. The treated plant cells produce new proteins that alter the quality of the cell wall, enhancing the cell fiber and accelerating the plant's growth by hundreds of percent.

Hirsch has a graph comparing the growth rates of normal poplar trees and poplar saplings treated with CBD. Over a two-year period, the treated trees grew four times as much as the untreated trees.

"We also checked the quality of the paper produced from treated trees, and in terms of durability, elasticity and tearability, it was significantly better [than that produced from regular trees]," he explains. "The worldwide forestry and paper industry generates $400 billion annually. Only 35 percent of this comes from cultivated forests. We can change that if we transfer the pressure on the natural forests to cultivated forests."

Fast-growing eucalyptuses CBD is currently focusing on improving the growth of eucalyptus trees. Hirsch explains that after pine, eucalyptus is the second-most popular tree for the paper industry and that there are some 130,000 square kilometers of eucalyptus forests worldwide.

"The advantages of the eucalyptus," he notes, "are that it is very common in subtropical regions like its native Australia, Brazil and Southeast Asia. Unlike pine trees, eucalyptus trees do not spread and stay only where they are planted."

About three years ago CBD signed a strategic agreement with Brazilian pulp and paper giant Suzano, which manages some 3,000 square kilometers of forests - almost one-seventh of the area of Israel - throughout Brazil. Suzano supplies CBD with suitable cuttings, which CBD genetically alters and then returns to Suzano for reforestation projects there.

Hirsch: "Regular eucalyptus trees are usually cut down after seven years, during which they grow to a height of about 20 meters. Trees treated with CBD can reach that height within three years or less." Once CBD completes its field trials with Suzano, the two companies plan to set up a joint company that will market engineered eucalyptus trees in South America.

Hirsch notes that the CBD gene can also be used to promote root vegetable growth and that a field trial on potatoes is under way in Europe. Since CBD makes stems and leaves grow faster, root vegetables will develop faster, too, and help farmers in areas with short growing seasons.

Essentially, CBD's only competitor is ArborGen, an American company backed by the two largest paper producers in the U.S.: International Paper and Westvaco. Practically no venture capital funds are investing in it, as genetic engineering is not very popular in the West or, particularly, in Europe.

"The opposition to genetic engineering is absurd," says Hirsch. "Agricultural crops are plants that grew naturally and were domesticated and nurtured over thousands of years. What we are doing is basically continuing that practice. Green groups don't really know how to digest what we are doing. On the one hand, some of them object to genetic engineering, but on the other, the Kyoto Accord supports reforestation as a means of reducing the greenhouse effect.

"A one hectare (10-dunam) forest consumes 10 tons of carbon annually from the carbon dioxide [that the trees 'breathe']. Clearly, a forest that grows twice as fast consumes twice as much and contributes to the shrinking of the hole in the ozone."


Biotechnology and GM Crops

- Nadim Ashraf, Daily Star (Bangladesh), April 12, 2005

In many countries, the debate surrounding the use of biotechnology in agriculture is often associated with genetically modified (GM) crops. Hence there is a wide misconception that the only application of biotechnology is in the development of such transgenic crops. However the scope of biotechnology is widespread: in Industrial Biotechnology (microbial fermentation, metabolite production etc.); in Environmental Biotechnology (to reduce contaminations, to alleviate pollution, to recover habitats from oil s pillage etc.); in Medical Biotechnology (pharmaceutical industries, gene therapies, etc.); and finally in Agricultural Biotechnology (conventional breeding, tissue culture, micropro-pagation, molecular breeding or marker assisted selection, GM crops, plant disease diagnostics, etc).

What is GM? The genetic makeup of an organism has been continuously altered throughout history through careful breeding and selective pressure applied by traditional farmers. Genetic Modification or GM uses the modern day recombinant DNA technology in doing the same.

Why make GM crops? However, this cross breeding is limited to same or very closely related species. It also takes a long time to achieve desired results and frequently undesired characteristics get transferred -- such as lower yields, poorer taste, etc. Further difficulties arise when the characteristics of interest do not exist in related species, e.g. flood tolerant gene does not exist in jute species, but is present in Arabidopsis, a distant plant type. However modern biotechnology, through genetic modification, may allow us to develop flood tolerant variety of jute by transferring to it only the specific flood tolerant gene from Arabidopsis. Similar examples can be given for other crops.

The benefits of GM plants have been clearly seen in many countries. These include -- Higher crop yields: As a result of which GM crop area has grown 35 fold between 1996 and 2002, adopted by 6 million farmers, of whom 5 million were small resource-poor farmers.

Reduction in farm costs: BT cotton (a popular transgenic crop) has reduced the use of insecticide in India by 70 per cent and has saved farmers about $45 per hectare in every crop cycle. Increase in farm profit (for both farmers and industries): It is estimated over half of the land in the Indian subcontinent periodically loses crops to drought because farmers cannot afford to pay for irrigation. Introduction of drought-resistant rice developed through GM technology would greatly reduce crop losses, increa sing both farmers' profits and the value of the country's rice trade.

Improvement in health and environment: Higher yield GM crops would mean using less land and hence less conversion of natural habitats into farmland. GM crops also require less pesticides and insecticides causing less damage to the environment. Also low-till farming is most beneficial for birds and wildlife, which is made possible by cultivating GM crops.

Increase in the nutritional value of food: GM crops can help fight diseases such as night blindness and kwashiorkor; improve food quality by increasing its shelf life; help to enhance the immune system; and significantly reduce the residual insecticide and pesticide in comparison to crops from traditional practices. Recently cooking oil from genetically modified Canola has become popular in many countries including Bangladesh for its low level of saturated fat, and hence lower risk of cardio vascular disea ses.

Decrease in the use of insecticides and pesticides: Annually, approximately $32 billion is spent on traditional pesticides. In 1997, farmers who planted BT cotton used 300,000 fewer gallons of insecticides.

Produce crops resistant to salinity, drought, cold, flood, etc: Needless to mention that these would bring enormous benefit Bangladesh, for instance by help fight drought in its northern districts or help grow rice along its coastal regions.

Undergoes strict quality assurance test and hence a safer choice: Crops improved through biotechnology have undergone more safety and environmental testing than any crop varieties in history, and have been produced and consumed by humans and animals in millions of tons around the world for years. There is, to date, not a single solitary confirmed case of human or animal illness or disease associated with a biotech crop.

To feed the future population: At present, we face an increasing shortage of water and good agricultural land While there may be food surpluses in some areas, we need to treble food production in the next 50 years to feed 3 billion extra people.

Are GM crops appropriate for developing countries? In 2003 GM crops have been planted in over 70 million hectares in 18 countries. Nearly five million small farmers in China, India, South Africa, Brazil and Morocco grew genetically modified cotton to protect against boll weevil. In China, this saved farmers as much as $500 per hectare, mainly through a 60-80 per cent reduction in the use of pesticides. In KwaZulu, 92 per cent of cotton farmers, mainly women, now grow GM cotton, many of whom have seen their becoming income nearly double, primarily because s avings on pesticides greatly exceed the extra cost of the seeds. In India, due to the absence of legalisation, a black market for GM cotton seed came into existence pursuant to the popular demand from the farmers.

The story of cotton shows actual financial benefit, here and now, mainly to small farmers in the developing world, contrary to the allegation frequently made that agricultural biotechnology only promotes industrial farming. But the greatest contribution of GM technology is yet to come. China spends over $100 million a year on plant science and has developed 141 different types of GM crops, 65 of which are already in field trials. In India, too, biotechnology flourishes. Most research is on staple crops gro wn by ordinary farmers. Salt-resistant and drought-resistant crops are also being developed, which can be cultivated in large tracts of land currently considered infertile.

Research on GM plants will bring particular benefits to health. Some have already been achieved through the reduced use of pesticides. In South Africa, cases of burns and sickness from agricultural chemicals have fallen from 150 a year to a dozen, chiefly because GM cotton, which is currently being used, is sprayed only twice a season instead of more than eight times, which was required by the conventional variety.

Yet some of those dedicated to helping people in the developing world ignore these potential benefits. They even oppose the development of "golden rice" containing pro-vitamin A as part of a staple diet, which can help redress the vitamin A deficiency associated with the deaths of more than a million children every year, according to the World Health Organisation. This deficiency is also the single most important cause of blindness in about half a million children annually.

I would like to stress that GM crops should not be considered under one blanket, but should be regarded on a case to case basis. Only those which suit our national interest should be developed, especially where traditional breeding has not been successful.

Developing countries are making real progress in genetic engineering, and our neighboring countries India, Pakistan, and China have already started developing their own GM crops. In agriculture based countries like Bangladesh, where food prices directly affect the incomes of majority of the population, the potential benefits of GM crops cannot be ignored.

The population of Bangladesh is growing, but its arable land is decreasing. To ensure the food security in future, now is the time for the government and the scientists to develop its technology using the available modern tools. We should now be united in formulating a strategy on how to reap maximum benefits from this novel technology. Let our prejudice or our political interest not hinder in appreciating and developing our own GM technology.

No one argues that all problems can be solved by the magic GM wand. But the question is: Can GM crops help? No one is insisting to jump to the GM technology blindly. There are pitfalls as with any other technology. But in this era of fast paced technological progress we cannot afford to deprive ourselves and fall behind in innovations. Blind opposition to GM crops will only be a triumph of dogma over reason.

-- Nadim Ashraf is Research Scientist, Department of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology University of Dhaka.

India: Bt Cotton Leads to Better Yields, Reduce Pesticide Use & Higher Profits

http://www.fibre2fashion.com, April 12, 2005

Bollgard cotton has resulted in a rich harvest for farmers across the six central and southern cotton growing states of India.

IMRB International interviewed 3199 farmers across 20 cotton growing districts in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The survey reconfirms the benefits of Bollgard cotton to Indian farmers and establishes that both large and small farmers, working in diverse agronomic conditions, have benefited from this technology

The survey estimates that there has been an approximately 58 per cent or 2.95 quintals per acre increase in Bollgard yields, when compared with conventional cotton. The net profit increase for Bollgard farmers is Rs. 5950 per acre or over 60 per cent. Another key finding is the reduction of an average 4 to 5 pesticide sprays against bollworm, which translates into a saving of Rs 1137 per acre.

Andhra Pradesh (AP) stands out among the six Bollgard cotton growing states as the one that enjoyed the greatest benefit from Bollgard. The net profit increase for AP farmers was highest at 551 per cent, with pesticide use against bollworms being reduced by about 5 sprays.

According to Mr. Nikhil Rawal, Sr. VP & Executive Director, IMRB International, "This survey was an eye-opener for us. We were expecting the new technology to be superior, but what we did not expect was the extent of difference between Bollgard and non-Bt on all important parameters such as yield, pesticide spray reduction and farmer profitability."

After Maharashtra Hybrids Seeds Co Ltd (Mahyco) received regulatory approval in March 2002, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd (MMB) sold 72,000 acres of the three approved Bollgard hybrids in the first year. In 2003, the second year of launch, the acreage under Bollgard cotton increased three-fold to 230,000 acres. In 2004, Rasi Seeds received approval for one hybrid and Bollgard sales rose to 1.3 million acres, a six-fold increase over the previous year. Bollgard was planted in India by approximately 350,000 farmers in 2004.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) Report 2004,"Biotech crops were grown by approximately 8.25 million farmers in 17 countries in 2004, up from 7 million farmers in 18 countries in 2003. Notably, 90% of the beneficiary farmers were resource-poor farmers from developing countries, whose increased incomes from biotech crops contributed to the alleviation of poverty." The Report goes on to state "Bt cotton has the potential to reduce the requirements for cotton insecticides in India by half, equivalent to over 10,000 tons of insecticide active ingredient annually at a cost of $170 million. Bt cotton can also have a positive impact on the environment, economics of production and productivity and the health of up to 4 to 5 million small farmers that grow cotton in India".