Publications: ISAAA Briefs
No. 17 - 2000
Chair, ISAAA Board of Directors
List of Tables
List of Figures
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms
2. Overview of Global Status and Distribution of Commercial Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 1999
3. Value of the Global Transgenic Seed Market, 1995-1999
4. Developments in the Crop Biotechnology Industry
5. Overview of the Commercial Seed Industry
6. Status of Transgenic Crops in Selected Developing Countries of Asia
7. Future Biotechnology Traits
8. Past Achievements and Future Potential of Plant Breeding, including Biotechnology, for Increasing Crop Productivity of the Major Staples: Wheat, Rice, and Maize
9. Future Prospects for Transgenic Crops Acknowledgments
This publication is the fourth in a series of ISAAA Briefs, which characterize the global adoption of commercialized transgenic crops. A global database for the period 1996 to 1999 is presented and 1999 data is analyzed globally, and by country, crop, and trait. Data on the global status of transgenic crops are complemented with commentaries on relevant key topics including the value of the global transgenic seed market; a review of acquisitions, mergers, and alliances in the biotechnology industry including those related to genomics; an overview of the commercial seed industry: status of transgenic crops in selected developing countries of Asia; future traits in biotechnology; an assessment of the contribution of conventional and biotechnology applications to past and future plant breeding activities in the major staples of wheat, rice, and maize and the impact on global food security; and future prospects for transgenic crops in 2000 and beyond.
In the early 1990s many were very skeptical that transgenic crops, more familiarly known as genetically modified (GM) crops, could deliver improved products and make an impact in the near term at the farm level. There was even more skepticism regarding the appropriateness of transgenic crops for the developing world, particularly their ability to meet the needs of small resource-poor farmers. It is encouraging to witness that the early promises of crop biotechnology are meeting expectations of large and small farmers in both industrial and developing countries. In 1999, the global area of the four principal crops of soybean, canola, cotton, and corn totaled 273 million ha, of which 15%, equivalent to 39.9 million ha, was planted with transgenic varieties. These 39.9 million ha of transgenic crops grown globally are unprecedented, and equivalent to more than one and a half times the total land area of the United Kingdom; they comprise 30% of the 72 million ha of soybeans planted globally, 14% of the 25 million ha of canola, 10% of the 34 million ha of cotton, and 8% of the 140 million ha of corn. The fact that millions of farmers in 12 different industrial and developing countries around the world made independent decisions after evaluating the technology following their first plantings of transgenic crops in 1996, after which the area increased by an unprecedented multiple of more than 23-fold, speaks volumes for the confidence and trust farmers have placed in transgenic crops. In China alone, within a short period of 2 years, over 1.5 million small resource-poor farmers growing an average of 0.15 ha of Bt cotton, have embraced the technology after witnessing first hand in their own fields the significant and multiple benefits it can deliver.
Between 1996 and 1999, 12 countries, 8 industrial and 4 developing, have contributed to more than a 20-fold (23.5) increase in the global area of transgenic crops. Adoption rates for transgenic crops are unprecedented and are the highest for any new technologies by agricultural industry standards. High adoption rates reflect grower satisfaction with the products that offer significant benefits ranging from more convenient and flexible crop management, higher productivity and/or net returns/hectare, and a safer environment through decreased use of conventional pesticides, which collectively contribute to a more sustainable agriculture. The major changes in area and global share of transgenic crops for the respective countries, crops and traits, between 1998 and 1999 were related to the following factors:
The value of the global market for transgenic seed has grown rapidly from $1 million in 1995 to $152 million in 1996, $851 million in 1997, $1,959 million in 1998, and an estimated $2.7- 3 billion in 1999. Global area planted to transgenic crops is expected to continue to grow but will start to plateau in 2000 reflecting the unprecedented high adoption rates to date and the high percentage of principal crops already planted to transgenics in the USA, Argentina, and Canada. In 2000, Argentina is expected to modestly expand the area of transgenic crops, with Brazil, subject to regulatory approval and market demand, possibly growing transgenic crops officially for the first time. China is expected to expand its transgenic area of Bt cotton, with growth and diversification continuing in South Africa and Eastern European countries. India has transgenic Bt cotton that is ready for commercialization pending final approval by the Government of India. The major issues that will modulate adoption in 2000 will be public acceptance, which drives market demand, regulation, and commodity prices. These three issues and labeling of foods derived from genetically modified crops will continue to be dominant factors that will impact on commercial planting of transgenic crops and consumption of genetically modified derived foods in countries of the European Union.
As expansion of transgenic crops continues, a shift will occur from the current generation of "input" agronomic traits to the next generation of "output" quality traits. This will result in improved and specialized nutritional food and feed products that will satisfy a high-value- added market, and will be a stimulus to de- commoditize grain and oil seed markets. This shift will significantly affect the value of the global transgenic crop market and also broaden the beneficiary profile from growers to processors and consumers. Food products derived from transgenic crops that are healthier and more nutritious could in turn have important implications for public acceptance, particularly in Europe where the debate about transgenic crops continues.
The R&D pipeline is full of new and novel products with input and output traits that can be commercialized in the midterm. Plant breeding activities in the cereal staples - wheat, rice and maize - have made enormous contributions to global food security. It is critical that a combined strategy of conventional and biotechnology applications be adopted as the technology component of a global food security initiative that also addresses other critical issues including population control and improved distribution. With the adoption of such a strategy, society will continue to benefit from the vital contribution that plant breeding offers the global population and global cereal demands of 2025 can be met. Biotechnology can play a critical role in achieving food security in Asia where 50% of the 1.3 billion poor people in the world reside. China assigns high priority and a strategic value to biotechnology and was the first country in the world to commercialize transgenic crops in the early 1990s. The experience of China, where more than 1.5 million small farmers benefit from Bt cotton, would be useful to share with other countries in the region.
The pace of biotechnology-driven consolidations in industry, which is a concern to some, was slower in 1999 than in the previous 3 years, although there were many alliances in the area of plant genomics that will continue to be of pivotal importance. The large multinationals with investments in seeds, crop biotechnology, and crop protection have reviewed future plans. Some corporations have already initiated restructuring, and are planning spin-offs and mergers, which have resulted in more focus. This may affect the scope and scale of planned delivery of new products. It is critically important that the public sector and international development institutions in both industrial and developing countries invest in the new technologies to ensure equitable access and benefits from the enormous potential that transgenic crops offer in terms of increased productivity, more nutritious food, and global food security. Governments must implement regulatory programs that inspire public confidence and exert leadership in communicating information and knowledge on transgenic crops to the public, so that society is well informed and can engage in a dialog about the impact of the technology on the environment, food safety, sustainability, and global food security. The most compelling case for biotechnology is its potential contribution to global food security and the alleviation of hunger in the Third World where 24,000 people die every day from chronic malnutrition. It is vital that the public sector and the private sector forge partnerships that will allow the comparative advantages of both parties to be optimized to achieve the mutual objective of global food security. The value and importance of superior seed is evident irrespective of whether it incorporates conventional or biotechnology improvements, because superior seed is essential for producing improved crop varieties that are, and will continue to be, the most cost-effective, environmentally safe and sustainable way to ensure global food security in future. Superior seed, incorporating improved transgenic traits, can be a very powerful tool for alleviating poverty because not only can it contribute to the sustenance of the rural poor, but the value of superior seed is known, trusted and accepted by hundreds of millions of farmers throughout the world.
List of Tables
List of Figures