The industry-sponsored International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications - ISAAA - is notorious for its annual reports on genetically modified crops around the world. The reports aims to show GM crops in a positive light but they have repeatedly been shown to use inflated and massaged figures to try and make a struggling industry look unstoppable.
While the vast majority of the hundreds of millions farmers around the world use conventional seeds to produce food, ISAAA works hard to try and make the tiny proportion of farmers world-wide who grow GM crops on a very small fraction of the world's agricultural land look like they're part of a runaway success.
In the executive summary of ISAAA's most recent report - 'ISAAA Brief 39-2008: Executive Summary
Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2008', ISAAA claimed the "Number of countries planting biotech crops soars to 25 ˆ a historical milestone." (page IX executive summary)
In reality, there were only two new countries that grew GM crops in 2008 compared to 2007, making this soaring to a new "historical milestone" somewhat overstated!
One of the new countries (both in Africa) was Egypt. Egypt's commercialisation of GM crops was repeatedly highlighted in the ISAAA report. For example, ISAAA made great play of the fact that, "Africa is recognized as the continent that represents by far the biggest challenge in terms of adoption and acceptance." Accordingly, ISAAA declared, "for Egypt to commercialize 700 hectares of Bt maize for the first time was of strategic importance for the African continent."
ISAAA also claimed it was of great strategic importance, "For the first time, there is a lead country commercializing biotech crops in each of the three principal regions of the continent: South Africa in southern and eastern Africa; Burkina Faso in west Africa; and Egypt in north Africa. This broad geographical coverage in Africa is of strategic importance in that it allows the three countries to become role models in their respective regions..."
One problem with all this is that according to a recent USDA report Egypt never actually commercialised Bt maize!
The USDA/FAS GAIN report EG 9012: Egypt, agricultural biotechnology, published July 22 2009, highlights the "stalled progress on commercial planting approval" for the Bt maize in question, Monsanto's Mon 810. According to the USDA report this results from multiple obstructions: "bureaucratic territoriality, lack of institutional development, mistakes on the commercial side, the Parliament's involvement, in addition to some political issues." The "political issues" are undefined.
Although there has been zero commercial planting of Bt maize in Egypt, USDA is of course doing its very best to resolve the problems: "In 2008, U.S. has concluded a comprehensive program to help Egypt to establish a competent authority and to set a system for practical biotechnology applications."
For more on ISAAA's myth-making see this media briefing: