Publications: ISAAA Briefs

No. 26 - 2002

Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2001. Feature: Bt Cotton

Clive James
Chair, ISAAA Board of Directors

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Published by: The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Ithaca, New York 
Copyright: (2002) International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) 
Reproduction of this publication for educational or other noncommercial purposes is authorized without prior permission from the copyright holder, provided the source is properly acknowledged.
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Correct Citation: James, C. 2002. Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2001(Feature: Bt Cotton). ISAAA Briefs No. 26. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.
ISBN: 1-892456-30-3
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Executive Summary

List of Tables and Figures



Overview of Global Status and Distribution of Commercial Trangenic Crops

Value of the Global Trangenic Seed Market, 1995 t0 2001

Value of Transgenic Crops in the Context of the Global Crop Protection Market

Global R&D Expenditures in Crop Biotechnology and Future GM Crop Markets

Overview of the Commercial Seed Industry

Overview of Developments in the Crop Biotechnology Industry

Economic Benefits from GM Crops

Bt Cotton


Executive Summary

Also view : Portuguese, Spanish , Africaans and French versions

Global GM Crop Area

  • In 2001 global area of transgenic or GM crops was 52.6 million hectares or 130 million acres, grown in thirteen countries by about 5 million farmers, over 75% of whom were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries. The US was the largest grower of GM crops (68%), with one quarter of the GM crop area grown in the developing countries, principally in Argentina and China.
  • The principal GM crops were soybean, corn, cotton and canola. On a global basis, 46% of the 72 million hectares of soybean was GM, 20% of the 34 million hectares of cotton, 11 % of the 140 million hectares of maize, and 11% of the 25 million hectares of canola.
  • In the first six years of GM crop commercialization, 1996 to 2001, a cumulative total of over 175 million hectares of GM crops were planted globally which met the expectations of millions of small and large farmers in both industrial and developing countries.
  • Global GM crop area is expected to continue to grow in 2002.

Value of the Global Transgenic Seed Market in 2001

  • The value of the global transgenic seed market is based on the sale price of transgenic seed plus any technology fees that apply. The value in 2001 was $3.8 billion up from $3.0 billion in 2000.


Global R& D Expenditures in Crop Biotechnology in 2001

  • Current global R&D expenditure in the private and public sectors is $4.4 billion with over 95% of the total in the industrial countries, led by the US. China is the leading investor in R&D crop biotechnology in the developing countries, followed by India.

Overview of the Commercial Seed Industry

  • An overview of the $30 billion plus commercial seed industry is presented. Expressed as a proportion of the global commercial seed market, transgenic seed represented approximately 13% of the estimated $30 billion plus global commercial seed market in 2001.

Overview of Developments in the Crop Biotechnology Industry

  • The major developments in crop biotechnology in the private sector in 2001 are summarized. Specific developments are discussed in each of four areas: acquisitions, mergers and spin-offs; genomics and product discovery; patents and licensing; and re-registration, approvals and commercialization.

Economic Benefits of GM Crops

  • In the 2000 ISAAA Global Review of Transgenic Crops, an assessment was published of the global benefits associated with the principal GM crops - soybean, corn, cotton and canola. In the interim, several studies and surveys have been conducted and these are summarized to provide the reader with the current information on benefits from GM crops; these include an overview of the current and potential economic benefits of GM crops in the US, RR soybeans in Argentina, Bt maize in the Philippines and Spain and a review of the investments of China in crop biotechnology.

Feature for the 2001 Review: Bt Cotton

The content of this chapter is structured chronologically to provide the reader with a global overview of the cotton crop, present available data for assessing the performance of Bt cotton to-date and project its global potential for the future. The focus on developing countries is consistent with ISAAA's mission to assist developing countries in assessing the potential of new technologies. The principal aim is to present a consolidated set of data that will facilitate a knowledge-based discussion of the potential benefits that Bt cotton offers global society.

  • A total of 33.5 million hectares of cotton were grown globally in 2001, worth approximately $20 billion. Developing countries planted over 70% of the global area, and industrial countries grew 20%, mainly the USA (5.6 million hectares), as well as Australia, Greece and Spain. The remaining 10% was grown in Uzbekistan and other Central and West Asian countries. Asia has about 60% of world cotton, with India, China, and Pakistan dominating with 50% of global hectarage. Latin America grows <5% where Brazil is the only major grower. Africa has almost 15% of global cotton with 22 countries growing small (30,000 hectares) to modest (500,000 hectares) areas of cotton. There are approximately 20 million cotton farmers globally, 97% of whom farm in developing countries, 2% in Central and West Asian countries and <1% in the industrial countries. Most cotton growers in developing countries are small resource-poor farmers growing 2 hectares or less of cotton.
  • Insect pests represent a major constraint to increased productivity in most cotton growing countries. The yield losses and the cost of controlling insect pests with insecticides costs cotton farmers an estimated $5 billion annually. The most important insect pests globally are the caterpillar moths - the lepidopteran pests - amongst which the 'bollworms' are the most damaging with losses and insecticide control costs totaling about $3 billion per year. Approximately 88% of the global cotton area suffer from medium to high infestation of lepidopteran pests. On a global basis, cotton farmers used $1.7 billion worth of insecticides in 2001 in their attempt to control cotton insect pests - more insecticides are applied to cotton than any other crop. Cotton consumes 20% of all insecticides applied to all crops globally.
  • A novel method of controlling lepidopteran pests is the use of Bt genes from a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt genes have been incorporated in cotton through genetic engineering and were first introduced commercially in 1996 in the US and Australia in Bollgard® varieties. Bt cotton has been developed by private sector companies and deployed globally in nine countries. In China, the public sector has also released Bt cotton varieties, which compete with Bt cotton from the private sector. Since 1996 a total of nine countries, seven developing and two industrial countries have successfully grown 13 million hectares of Bt cotton. These include USA, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia (pre-commercial) in the Americas, China, India, Indonesia and Australia in Asia and South Africa on the African continent.
  • The potential development of resistance poses the biggest challenge to Bt cotton and the development and implementation of Insect Resistance Management (IRM) strategies is essential. Countries that have adopted Bt cotton have successfully implemented different IRM strategies and no resistance to Bt cotton has been detected to-date despite the fact that 13 million hectares of Bt cotton have been grown worldwide since 1996; several claims from critics proved to be unfounded. The recent approval in Australia of Bollgard II will considerably fortify IRM strategies because it has two independent Bt genes that confer resistance; other Bt and novel genes for cotton insect resistance are expected to be available by 2004. From a global viewpoint, any international initiative to substantially extend the adoption of Bt cotton must also anticipate and consider the implications of a significant expansion in the global area of Bt cotton. These considerations at the international level are similar to those at the national level and include necessary global strategies for responsibly managing and optimizing the durability of resistance, and the spatial and temporal deployment of different varieties carrying different sources of resistance. An effective international mechanism to formulate, coordinate and oversee a global strategy for deploying Bt cotton responsibly and effectively could play a seminal role if it could be operated without onerous bureaucracy.
  • Eight country case studies are presented which provide detailed and current information on all aspects of the cultivation, adoption and performance of Bt cotton, including an assessment of the agronomic, economic, environmental, health and social impact of the technology. Country studies are presented for the USA, Australia, China, India, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa and Indonesia which collectively have six years' experience with Bt cotton and grew almost 20 million hectares of cotton in 2001, equivalent to 60 % of the global hectarage of cotton.
  • All countries that have introduced Bt cotton have derived significant and multiple benefits. These include increases in yield, decreased production costs, a reduction of at least 50% in insecticide applications, resulting in substantial environmental and health benefits to small producers, and significant economic and social benefits. In the US in 2001, the economic benefit from Bt cotton was estimated at $103 million or $50 per hectare. In China in 2001, Bt cotton increased yield on 1.5 million hectares and reduced insecticide use by 78,000 tons (formulated product) resulting in significantly fewer farmer insecticide poisonings. In 2001, Bt cotton in China increased annual farmer income by $500/hectare, equivalent to a national benefit of $750 million. Small resource-poor cotton farmers in the Makhathini Flats in South Africa, 50% of whom are women, derived similar benefits including significant social benefits devoting less time to carrying water and spraying insecticide and more time caring for children, attending to the sick, and family duties. To put a human face on the benefits of Bt cotton, for the average cotton holding of 1.7 hectares in the Makhathini Flats in South Africa, in a typical season, a woman farmer is relieved of 12 days of arduous spraying, saves over 1,000 liters of water (over 250 US gallons), walks 100 km less, suffers less insecticide poisoning and increases her income significantly by approximately $85 per season, through using Bt cotton, rather than conventional cotton.
  • Up to 5 million farmers benefited from Bt cotton in 2001, most of them small resource-poor farmers in developing countries, mainly in China and also in South Africa where Bt cotton contributed to the alleviation of poverty by increasing incomes of small farmers substantially. On a global basis, the benefits from the deployment of Bt cotton between 1998 and 2001 were estimated to be $1.7 billion.
  • In terms of environmental impact, Bt cotton has resulted in a significant decrease in the volume of insecticides applied to cotton, which in turn reduced insecticide runoff into watersheds and aquifers. In the US alone for the three year period 1998, 1999 and 2001 the volume of insecticides applied to cotton was reduced by 2,979 MT (active ingredient). In China for the three period 1999 to 2001, insecticide tonnage on cotton was reduced by a substantial 123,000 MT of formulated product. Consequently, insecticide poisonings of cotton farmers, applying insecticides by hand with knapsacks, decreased by up to 75%. Similar evidence on insecticide poisonings has been reported for South Africa.
  • Cotton is in many ways an ideal candidate for introduction to cotton-growing countries as the pilot and model GM crop. Its principal use as a fiber crop, rather than a food/feed-crop, facilitates its regulation and acceptance by the public at large. From a biosafety viewpoint it is a self pollinating tetraploid that will not outcross with native diploid cottons and the movement of the large pollen, which is not dispersed by wind, is limited to a few meters. Cotton is not found as a weed in the global production areas and Bt is unlikely to confer an advantage that would result in Bt cotton establishing as a weed. Thus, the potential biosafety consequences are negligible due to the limited movement of pollen, natural genetic barriers that preclude outcrossing with native cotton, with no known compatibility with any wild relatives. The safety of the Cry1Ac protein is well documented and the Cry1Ac gene is very unlikely to confer any competitive advantage. With the adoption of any technology, there is always a risk that unintended or unforeseen effects could present new challenges. However, with the significant and substantial proven benefits that Bt cotton offers developing countries, the greatest risk is not to explore the technology, and thus be certain to suffer the consequences of inferior technology that will disadvantage farmers in developing countries who have to compete in international markets.
  • To-date, only nine countries have adopted Bt cotton, which begs the question of what is the global potential for Bt cotton in the 50 key countries that grow cotton throughout the world. In the absence of field data to assess the performance of Bt cotton in the 50 countries, the projected saving in insecticide that would be associated with the use of Bt cotton can be used as an indicator of the potential of Bt cotton globally. The annual projected insecticide saving for the countries with medium to high infestations of lepidopteran pests is 33,000 MT valued at $690 million and equivalent to 37% of the 81,200 MT of cotton insecticides used globally in 2001. The gain of $690 million excludes the significant additional benefits that would accrue from reducing labor needs for insecticide sprays by half, plus the substantial additional income from the higher yields of Bt cotton. Potential annual global water savings, from optimizing the deployment of Bt cotton globally would reduce insecticide use by half, saving an estimated 6.3 billion liters of water (of which 1.7 billion liters have already been saved) or approximately 1.8 billion US gallons. To put this saving into context, 6.3 billion liters would supply a city of 1.5 million people in Africa, with their per capita consumption of 47 liters per day of water, for approximately 3 months

The six countries that have the potential for significant benefits from Bt cotton have either already adopted the technology, (China, India, USA and Australia) or are exploring its development (Pakistan and Brazil). The challenge is to provide the same opportunity for the potential beneficiary countries, with small to modest areas of cotton, in the developing world where several factors preclude access to Bt cotton. It is important that these smaller cotton-growing countries with resource-poor cotton farmers are offered the option of commercial access to Bt cotton so that they are not disadvantaged by being denied the significant benefits that accrue to adopters of the technology. There are 30 such developing countries, 21 in Africa, five in Asia and four in Latin America that grow small to modest areas of cotton that are potential beneficiaries of commercial Bt cotton but because of various constraints do not have the option to explore the potential benefits that Bt cotton offers in their own countries. The constraints range from absence of a regulatory framework that would allow field-testing of Bt cotton to determine its performance, lack of trained personnel, material and financial resources or the transaction cost may be too high for commercializing a relatively small area of cotton. Experience to-date in several developing countries has clearly demonstrated that Bt cotton can deliver significant economic, environmental, health and social benefits to small resource poor farmers that are assigned high priority by the donor community. Developing countries interested in evaluating Bt cotton and gaining commercial access to the technology in their own countries need assistance from the international public and private sector development community which pledged its support at Johannesburg, for a more sustainable agriculture, a better quality of life and alleviation of poverty for the poorest of the poor, which include millions of resource-poor cotton farmers. The compelling case for providing more developing countries the option of sharing in the substantial environmental, health, economic and social benefits delivered by Bt cotton to millions of resource-poor cotton farmers in developing countries on millions of hectares over the last six years, represents a challenge for both the donor community and the developing countries which are the potential beneficiaries. Bt cotton presents a unique opportunity to utilize technology to contribute to the alleviation of poverty as proposed in the 2001 UNDP Human Development Report.

List of Tables

Table 1
Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2001
Table 2
Global Area of Transgenic Crops in 2000 and 2001: Industrial and Developing Countries
Table 3
Global Area of Transgenic Crops in 2000 and 2001: by Country
Table 4
Global Area of Transgenic Crops in 2000 and 2001: by Crop
Table 5
Global Area of Transgenic Crops in 2000 and 2001: by Trait
Table 6
Dominant Transgenic Crops, 2001
Table 7
Transgenic Crop Area as Percent of Global Area of Principal Crops, 2001
Table 8
Estimated Value of Global Transgenic Seed Market, 1995 to 2001 ($ millions)
Table 9
Global Crop Protection Market in 2001: by Product (Value in $ millions)
Table 10
Value of Global Transgenic Crops in 2001: by Crop and Region ($ millions)
Table 11
Global Crop Protection Market, 2001: by Industrial/Developing Country and Product ($ millions)
Table 12
Global Crop Protection Market, in 2001: by Country Expressed as Percentage of Total Market
Table 13
Global Crop Protection Market, in 2001: by Crop Expressed as Percentage of Total Market
Table 14
2000 Estimates of Global R&D Expenditures on Crop Biotechnology
Table 15
Global Value of Transgenic Crop Market 1996-2010
Table 16
Latest Estimated Values (US$ millions) of the Commercial Markets for Seed and Planting Material for the Top 20 Countries
Table 17
Selected Highlights of Crop Biotechnology Developments in Industry, 2001
Table 18
Impact of GM Crops planted in USA in 2001
Table 19
Potential Impact of GM Crops approved but not adopted in USA in 2001
Table 20
Summary of Current and Potential Gains for GM Crops in USA, 2001
Table 21
China's 26 GM crop applications (commercialized and in trials) in 2001
Table 22
Top 10 Cotton-Growing Countries by area, 2001-2002
Table 23
Top 10 Producers of Lint Cotton in 2001-2002
Table 24
Top 10 Consumers of Lint Cotton in 2001-2002
Table 25
Top 10 Importers of Cotton 2001-2002
Table 26
Top 10 Exporters of Lint Cotton 2001-2002
Table 27
Estimate of Number of Cotton Farmers Worldwide and Size of Cotton Holdings, 2001
Table 28
Principal Lepidopteran Pests in the Major Cotton Producing Countries of the World
Table 29
Global List of the 33 Countries Growing More than 100,000 hectares of Cotton in 2001-2002, Listing Insect Pests that can be of Major Importance and Average Number of Insecticide Sprays/Season
Table 30
Lepidopteran Pest Infestation Levels and Cotton Area (000s of hectares) in the Top 50 Cotton-growing Countries
Table 31
Range of Actual and Potential Losses from Cotton Insect Pests for Different Global Regions
Table 32
Losses Due to Cotton Insect Pests in the US and Cost of Control by Insecticides and Other Means, 1994 to 2001
Table 33
Value of Global Cotton Insecticides at Farmer Level, 2001
Table 34
Estimated Level of Caterpillar Pest Control Provided by Bollgard® I Bt Cotton in the USA
Table 35
Relative Efficacy (Percent pest mortality) of Bollgard® and Bollgard® II
Table 36
Insect Resistance Management Strategy for Bollgard® Cotton
Table 37
Global Adoption of Bt cotton (Bt and Bt/Herbicide Tolerance), 1996 to 2001 (millions of hectares)
Table 38
Losses Due to Cotton Insect Pests in the US and Cost of Control by Insecticides and Other Means
Table 39
Adoption of Bt Cotton in the USA
Table 40
Lint Yields for Bt Cotton Varieties and Their Non-Bt Near Isogenic Parents
Table 41
US National Benefits from Bt Cotton
Table 42
Distribution of Economic Surplus from Bt Cotton in the USA (expressed as %)
Table 43
Adoption of Bt Cotton in Australia
Table 44
Yield (Bales/Hectare) of Bt Cotton Compared with Non-Bt Cotton in Australia
Table 45
Reduction in Number of Insecticide Sprays with Bt Cotton in Australia
Table 46
Insect Control Cost (A$/Hectare) for Bt Cotton and Non-Bt Cotton in Australia
Table 47
Production of Bt Cotton in China 1997-2001
Table 48
Insecticide Use on Bt and Non-Bt Cotton in China 1999-2001, Kg/Hectare of Formulated Product
Table 49
Percentage of Bt and Non-Bt Cotton Farmers Suffering from Pesticide Poisonings in China, 1999-2001
Table 50
Net Revenue (US$/Hectare) of Bt and Non-Bt Cotton Farmers in China 1999, 2000, 2001 (US$/Hectare)
Table 51
National Economic Benefits Associated with Bt Cotton in China
Table 52
Land Holdings, Distribution and Production Statistics of Cotton Farmers in India
Table 53
Summary of Bt Cotton Trials Conducted in India, 1998-1999
Table 54
Results of Field Trials and Economic Benefits of Bt Cotton in India
Table 55
Relative Agronomic and Economic Performance of Bt and Conventional Cotton in ICAR Field Trials in India in 2001
Table 56
Pest Control for Cotton in India 1998-2001
Table 57
Economic Advantage of Bt Cotton Versus Conventional Cotton in India in ICAR 2001 Field Trials
Table 58
Bt Cotton Area and Percent Adoption in Mexico, 1996-2001
Table 59
Area Planted to Bt Cotton by State, Mexico 2000
Table 60
Lint Yield (MT/hectare) of Bt Cotton and Non-Bt Cotton in Mexico 1997 and 1998
Table 61
Number and of Cost of Insecticide Applications on Bt Cotton and Non-Bt Cotton in Mexico
Table 62
Economic Advantage ($/Hectare) of Bt Cotton and Non-Bt Cotton in Mexico 1997
Table 63
Economic Advantage ($/Hectare) of Bt Cotton and Non-Bt Cotton in Mexico 1998
Table 64
Adoption of Bt Cotton in Argentina, 1998-2001
Table 65
Comparison Between the Performance of Bt Cotton and Non-Bt Cotton in Argentina 1999-2000 and 2000-2001
Table 66
Cotton Production in South Africa - 2001-2002 Production Year
Table 67
Area of Bt Cotton and Number of Bt Cotton Farmers in the Makhathini Flats, South Africa 1998-1999 to 2000-2001
Table 68
Yield Advantage (Kg/Hectare) of Bt Cotton Versus Non-Bt Cotton for Small and Large Farmers on Irrigated and Dry Land in South Africa
Table 69
Advantages of Bt Cotton, Makhathini Flats, South Africa 1998-1999 and 1999-2000: Yield, Pesticide Use, Seed Cost and Gross Margins
Table 70
Savings Associated with Fewer Insecticide Sprays and Less Labor on Bt Cotton in South Africa, 2000-2001
Table 71
Incidence of Insecticide Poisonings and Data on Adoption of Bt Cotton in the Makhathini Flats in South Africa 1997-1998 to 2000-2001
Table 72
Economic Advantage (US$/Hectare) of Bt Cotton Versus Non-Bt Cotton for Small and Large Farmers in South Africa
Table 73
Performance of Bt Cotton in Indonesia, 2001
Table 74
Global Yield Increases (%) in Bt Cotton in Selected Countries
Table 75
Increase in Lint Production due to Bt Cotton in USA
Table 76
Estimated Reduction in Number of Insecticide Sprays per Season for Bt Cotton in Selected Countries
Table 77
Reduction in Use of Cotton Insecticide in China 1999, 2000 and 2001
Table 78
Estimates of Insecticide Reductions (MT of a.i.) Associated with Bt Cotton in 2001, based on 0.45 kg a.i per Hectare/Spray
Table 79
Estimates of Global Benefits from Bt Cotton 1998 to 2001 ($ millions)
Table 80
Distribution of Share of Economic Surplus from Transgenic Crops (Expressed as Percentage), for Different Stakeholders
Table 81
Estimated Potential Savings of Cotton Insecticide in 2001 (MT metric tons
of Active Ingredient (a.i.)) in the Top 50 Cotton-growing Countries and Lepidopteran Pest Infestation Levels

List of Figures

Figure 1 Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2001
Figure 2 Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2001: Industrial and Developing Countries
Figure 3 Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2001: By Country
Figure 4 Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2001: By Crop
Figure 5 Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2001: By Trait
Figure 6 Global Adoption Rates (%) for Principal Transgenic Crops, 2001
Figure 7 Global Adoption of Bt Cotton (Bt and Bt/Herbicide Tolerance), 1996 to 2001 (Millions of Hectares)



Table 1A
Latest Estimates for Seed Exports: Worldwide: by Crop (US$ millions)
Table 2A
Latest Estimates of Seed Exports: Major Exporting Countries (US$ millions)