MadSci Network: Agricultural Sciences

Re: Is there any info for the past 10 years of Genetically Modified Crops?

Date: Tue Dec 18 03:41:45 2001
Posted By: Jeremy Cherfas, Staff, Public Awareness, IPGRI (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute)
Area of science: Agricultural Sciences
ID: 1008254691.Ag

Dear Tony

There is a great deal of published information about various aspects of genetically-modified (GM) crops, but most seems to have originated with one "side" or the other, which makes it difficult to assess.

You ask about the percentage of GM crops used by corporations such as Monsanto. Most of the corporations, Monsanto included, are developing crops for others to use. Even the production of seed is often contracted to third parties. There is no single independent source for data about the areas being planted to different GM crops in different countries. The most widely cited data are those compiled by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, ISAAA.

ISAAA estimates that the area of GM crops around the world will reach 50 million hectares by the end of 2001. This is an increase of more than 10% on the 44.2 million ha planted in 2000. The first commercial GM crops were sown in 1996. Since then the global area has increased more than 30 times. There is some evidence that the phenomenal expansion of GM area is levelling off, probably because all the farmers who want to grow GM crops are now doing so. For example, in Argentina in 2000 more than 90% of the soybean area was sown with GM varieties. Likewise, in the US, more than 70% of the cotton was GM.

If you consider the top four crops, soybean, canola, cotton and corn (maize), about 16% of the global area of those crops was planted with GM varieties in 2000. Individually, GM soybean covered 36% of the soybean acreage, cotton 16%, canola 11% and corn 7%.

Of the global area of GM crops, most (68%, 30.3 million ha) was grown in the US, with 23% (10.0 million ha) in Argentina, 7% (3.0 million ha) in Canada, and 1% (500,000 ha) in China. The rest was grown in South Africa, Australia, Romania, Mexico, Bulgaria, Spain, Germany, France and Uruguay.

ISAAA also reports that "the value of the global market for transgenic seed has grown rapidly from $1 million in 1995, to $ 156 million in 1996, $ 858 million in 1997, $ 1,970 million in 1998, $ 2,947 million in 1999 and an estimated $ 3,044 million in 2000".

The picture of growth portrayed by ISAAA is, however, tempered by reports from other organizations. The American Corn Growers Association, for example, says that farmers are taking into account the fact that consumers are not keen on GM varieties. The average area of GM corn planted by each farmer dropped by 6% between 2000 and 2001, and may drop further in 2002.  In a survey, more than three-quarters of those who replied said they would plant non-GM corn to satisfy their customers.

I hope that helps answer a very open-ended and wide-ranging question.

Jeremy Cherfas

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