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WASHINGTON - Plantings of genetically engineered crops across the globe increased nearly 20 percent last year despite resistance of consumers in Europe and elsewhere, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, The Associated Press reports.
An estimated 130 million acres of biotech crops were grown in 2001, according to a report by the ISAAA, which promotes use of the technology in poor countries.
The report finds that the United States and Argentina accounted for 90 percent of the world's biotech acreage last year and most of the growth from 2000. China's farmers tripled their use of genetically engineered cotton to 3.7 million acres, nearly a third of their total crop.
"There was much speculation in 2000 that indeed the global area (of biotech crops) would decrease rather increase" in 2001, said Clive James, a scientist who is chairman of ISAAA. The group is sponsored by foundations, biotech companies and U.S. and European government agencies.
He predicted a 10 percent increase in biotech acreage this year.
Critics of biotech crops say there isn't enough known about their impact on human health or the environment. U.S. farmers have shunned biotech versions of sugarbeets, potatoes and sweet corn because major food companies said they wouldn't buy them.
However, two-thirds of last year's U.S. soybean crop was genetically engineered, compared to 54 percent the year before. Virtually all of the soybeans grown in Argentina last year were of biotech varieties.
The United States grew 88 million acres of biotech crops last year, followed by Argentina with 29 million and Canada with 8 million, the report said. South Africa, Australia and seven other countries had very small amounts.