A: The amount of global farmland devoted to biotech crops in 2004.

Thats the conclusion of a new report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Despite its complicated name, this non-profit group performs a very simple job each January when it publishes the number of acres planted with biotech crops the previous year.

कुंआ, maybe its not such a simple job because it involves so much counting. The figure for 2004 है 200 लाख एकड़–an increase of 20 से प्रतिशत 2003, and more than 5 percent of the worlds total cropland.

Once again, its possible to say that more farmers planted more biotech crops on more acres than ever before last year. But then, thats hardly headline news any more. Its been possible to say that ever since biotech crops hit the commercial market a decade ago. Yes, 2005 marks another milestone the 10th consecutive year that biotech crops have been planted commercially.

Here are a few other interesting facts from the ISAAA report:

Since 1996, farmers around the world have planted 951 million acres of biotech crops. For those keeping score at home, thats more than 26 times the size of Iowa. It also means that somewhere this year Crop Year 2005 – a farmer somewhere in the world will plant the biotech acre no. 1 एक अरब. Thats billion, with a B!

Last year, से ज्यादा 8 million farmers planted biotech crops in 17 countries, which is up from 7 million farmers in 2003. के बारे में 90 percent of these farmers are considered resource poor.

For the first time ever, developing countries outpaced the industrialized world in absolute growththeir biotech crop area increased by nearly 18 लाख एकड़, compared to a little more than 15 million acres elsewhere.

There are now 14 biotech mega-countries, up from 10 a year earlier, as Mexico, Paraguay, फिलीपींस, and Spain joined the ranks of nations growing at least 50,000 हेक्टेयर (a.k.a. 123,553 एकड़ जमीन) of biotech crops. Their addition reflects a more balanced and stabilized participation of a broader group of countries adopting biotech crops, confirms the ISAAA.

The United States continues to dominate agricultural biotechnology, accounting for 59 percent of the worlds biotech acreage. Next in line is Argentina (20 प्रतिशत), followed by Canada (6 प्रतिशत), ब्राज़िल (6 प्रतिशत), and China (5 प्रतिशत). India remains one of the lesser mega-countries, but its 400 percent rate of growth in 2004 suggests that its ready to surge forward.

These are solid accomplishmentsand there will be more of them in the years ahead. Predicting the future is a tricky business, but the ISAAA is willing to hazard an educated guess: It believes that in five years as many as 15 million farmers in 30 countries will plant 371 million acres of biotech crops. (Thats more than 10 times the size of Iowa!)

Over the long term, well see a lot of growth in parts of the world that havent yet fully embraced agricultural biotechnology. China and India, the worlds two most populous countries, still have large rural populations and incredible room for growth. So does Brazil (where rates of biotech adoption are probably under-reported at the moment). And on the entire continent of Africa, home to well over 800 million people, only South Africa is a biotech-growing country.

Soybeans currently dominate the worlds biotech acreage, accounting for about 60 percent of whats grown. Theyre followed by the two other members of the biotech triumviratecorn (23 percent of the global biotech acreage) and cotton (11 प्रतिशत). These crops will remain growth areas for a while, though at some point relatively soon we will see other plants enter the biotech fold. Breeding an enhanced biotech crop thats ready for commercial planting takes years of research and supervised testing as well as millions of dollars. These costs are bound to drop, and when they do we may see virtually every kind of fruit and vegetable improved by biotechnology.

Q: When will the biotech revolution be complete?

A: The day I can grow kiwi fruit in the Iowa snow.

Tim Burrack raises corn and soybeans in partnership with his brother on their NE Iowa family farm. Tim is a Board Member of Truth About Trade and Technology (www.truthabouttrade.org) a national grassroots advocacy group based in Des Moines, IA formed and led by farmers in support of freer trade and biotechnology.