Publications: ISAAA Briefs

No. 29 - 2003

Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2002 Feature: Bt Maize

Clive James
Chair, ISAAA Board of Directors


Published by: The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Ithaca, New York 
Copyright: (2003) 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. 2003. Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2002 Feature: Bt Maize. ISAAA Briefs No. 29. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.
ISBN: 1-892456-38-8
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Executive Summary
List of Tables and Figures

1. Introduction

2. Overview of Global Status and Distribution of Commercial Transgenic Crops

2.1 Distribution of Transgenic Crops in Industrial and Developing Countries
2.2 Distribution of Transgenic Crops, by Country
2.3 Distribution of Transgenic Crops, by Crop
2.4 Distribution of Transgenic Crops, by Trait
2.5 Dominant Transgenic Crops in 2002
2.6 Global Adoption of Transgenic Soybean, Maize, Cotton and Canola
2.7 The Future

3. Value of the Global Transgenic Seed Market, 1995 to 2002

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

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

6. Overview of the Commercial Seed Industry

7. Overview of Developments in the Crop Biotechnology Industry

8. Bt Maize

8.1 Introduction
8.2 The Maize Crop and its Origins
8.3 Global Distribution, Production, Imports and Exports

8.3.1 Maize distribution and production
8.3.2 Maize exports and imports
8.3.3 Number and distribution of maize farmers globally

8.4 Maize Production Systems and Maize Germplasm

8.4.1 Maize production systems
8.4.2 Global areas sown to hybrids, OPVs, and farmer-saved seed
8.4.3 Maize grain types

8.5 Maize Utilization
8.6 Maize Demand in 1997 Compared with Projections for 2020
8.7 Meeting Increased Demands – the Role of Bt Maize
8.8 Insect Pests of Maize
Stem borers
Corn rootworm
Corn earworms
Post-harvest pests

8.8.1 Principal pests in the top three maize-growing countries, USA, China,
and Brazil

8.8.2 Global distribution of maize pests

8.9 Crop Losses and Costs of Control and Economic Gains Due to Bt Maize

8.9.1 Global overview
8.9.2 Regional and country estimates of crop losses and economic gains
due to stem borers controlled by cry1Ab
Latin America
8.9.3 Preliminary assessment of crop losses due to corn rootworm in the US
and the gains associated with deployment of cry3Bb1 Bt gene
8.9.4 Benefits from controlling corn rootworm with cry3Bb1

8.10 The Global Maize Insecticide Market

8.10.1 Potential for insecticide substitution

8.11 The Use of Bt Genes in Maize

8.11.1 Approved Bt genes in maize
8.11.2 Newly released Bt genes
8.11.3 Next generation of insect resistant genes in maize

8.12 Adoption of Bt Maize

Benefits of Bt maize with cry1Ab gene in the US

8.13 Potential Effect of Bt Maize on the Environment

8.13.1 Potential effect on non-target organisms
The Monarch butterfly experience
8.13.2 Gene flow
Maize landraces in Mexico
8.13.3 Impact of Cry1Ab proteins in soil and surface water
8.13.4 Impact of Bt maize on contamination of aquifers with insecticides

8.14 Insect Resistance Management (IRM)

8.14.1 Resistance to insecticides
8.14.2 Evolution of corn rootworm to overcome control by crop rotation
8.14.3 Management of Bt maize for European corn borer
and corn rootworm control

8.15 Food and Feed Safety Aspects of Bt Maize

8.15.1 Overview and framework for food/feed safety assessments
8.15.2 Assessment of potential health implications
Effect on nutrients status
Potential for development of antibiotic resistance

8.16 Mycotoxins
8.17 Trade Issues re GM Crops

8.18 Global Potential of Bt Maize: Opportunities and Challenges

8.18.1 Potential global area for Bt maize in the near to mid-term
8.18.2 Potential for Bt maize to increase productivity and production
8.18.3 Substitution of insecticides and lower levels of mycotoxin
8.18.4 Farmer’s viewpoint
8.18.6 Opportunities and Challenges


Global GM Crops in 2002

Growth in GM Crop Area

  • In 2002, the global area of GM crops was 58.7 million hectares or 145 million acres, grown in sixteen countries by 6 million farmers, of whom 5 million were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries. GM crop area has grown 35 fold between 1996 and 2002 – one of the highest rates of adoption of any technology in agriculture. The US was the largest grower of GM crops (68%), followed by Argentina (23%) Canada (6%) and China (4%) with the balance grown by the other 12 countries. Three countries India, Colombia, and Honduras grew GM crops for the first time in 2002.
  • The principal GM crops continued to be soybean, maize, cotton and canola. On a global basis 51% of the 72 million hectares of soybean was GM, 20% of the 34 million hectares of cotton, 9% of the 140 million hectares of maize and 12% of the 25 million hectares of canola. Herbicide tolerance continued to be the most dominant trait occupying 75% of the GM global area in 2002, followed by insect resistance (17%) and the stacked genes of herbicide tolerance and insect resistance, occupying 8%.
  • In the first seven years of GM crop commercialization, 1996 to 2002, a cumulative total of over 235 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. GM crops delivered significant agronomic, environmental health and social benefits to farmers and to global society, and contributed to a more sustainable agriculture.
  • Global GM crop area is expected to continue to grow in 2003.

Value of the Global Transgenic Seed Market in 2002

  • 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 2002 was $4.0 billion, up from $3.7 billion in 2001.

Global R&D Expenditures in Crop Biotechnology

  • 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.

GM Crops and the Commercial Seed Industry

  • GM crops represent approximately 13% of the $30 billion global commercial seed market in 2001.

Feature: Bt Maize

The feature on Bt maize is devoted to:

  • assessing the performance to-date of the first generation of Bt maize with the cry1Ab gene on a global basis over the last seven years
  • evaluating the future potential of cry1Ab and other Bt or novel genes that confer resistance to the major caterpillar/moths (Lepidoptera), particularly the economically important stem borer complex
  • a preliminary assessment of new genes for the control of the corn rootworm complex (Coleoptera/beetles), an important pest in the Americas which has also been detected in 13 countries in Europe

The principal aim is to present a consolidated set of data that will facilitate a knowledge-based discussion of the potential benefits and risks that Bt maize offers global society. The topics presented include:

  • the maize crop and its origins;
  • global distribution of maize in developing and industrial countries, by area, production, consumption, imports, and exports as well as projections of future maize demand in 2020;
  • definition of the areas sown to hybrids, open pollinated varieties and farmer-saved seed;
  • estimates of the number of maize farmers worldwide, by principal country, and average size of maize holdings;
  • maize production systems, germplasm development and maize utilization;
  • an overview of the insect pests of maize as well as the crop losses they cause, including the cost of control, and an analysis of the $550 million global maize insecticide market and a gains from Bt maize;
  • deployment of the cry1Ab gene in Bt maize, its global adoption and assessment of benefits;
  • a preview of the second generation genes which include the genes cry3Bb1 and cry1Fa2, first commercialized in the US in 2003, and five other gene products that are in development and expected to be launched within the next three years;
  • a review of Insect Resistance Management, the potential effect of Bt maize on the environment and the food and safety aspects of Bt maize, including the important topic of mycotoxins and the advantage that Bt maize offers with lower levels of the mycotoxin fumonisin in terms of food and feed safety, particularly in developing countries;
  • a brief overview of trade issues as they relate to Bt maize in the USA and the EU;
  • concluding with an assessment of the global potential of Bt maize, as a safe and sustainable technology that has the capacity to make a critical contribution to global food and feed security, more specifically to the unprecedented demand for approximately 850 million tons of maize in 2020, 60% of which will be consumed in developing countries which will have the formidable challenge of having to produce most of their maize demands in their own countries with imports supplying only around 10% or less.

The Maize Crop

Approximately 75 countries in both the industrial and developing world, each grow at least 100,000 hectares of maize; the total of 140 million hectares produces 600 million MT of maize grain per year, valued at $65 billion annually, based on the 2003 international price of $108/MT. Developing countries plant two-thirds of the global maize area, and industrial countries one-third. The top five producers of maize are the US 229 million MT, China 124 m MT, Brazil 35.5 m MT, Mexico 19 m MT and France 16 m MT. Of the top 25 maize countries in the world 8 are industrial and 17 are developing countries including 9 from Africa, 5 from Asia and 3 from Latin America. There are approx. 200 million maize farmers worldwide, 98% of whom farm in developing countries; 75% of maize farmers are in Asia (105 million in China alone), between 15 and 20% in Africa and 5% in Latin America. Two thirds of the maize seed sold globally is hybrid and only 20 % is farmer-saved seed. In fact, hybrids are the predominant seed type in many of the principal developing countries which have a seed distribution system already in place for providing Bt maize to farmers; for example 84% of the 105 million Chinese maize farmers buy hybrid seed, and 81% of all maize seed used in Eastern and Southern Africa is hybrid.

Maize insect pests and the value of crop losses

The lepidopteran pests, particularly the stem borer complex, are a major constraint to increased productivity, and are of economic importance in most maize-growing countries throughout the world. Just under half (46%) of the maize area in the 25 key maize-growing countries have medium (40% area infested in temperate areas) to high levels (60% area infested in tropics/subtropics) of infestation with lepidopteran pests. Corn rootworm infests 20 million hectares in the Americas, requiring more insecticide than any other pest in the US, with losses and control measures in the US costing $1 billion per annum. The global losses due to all insect pests is 9%, equivalent to 52 million MT of maize, valued at $5.7 billion annually and consuming insecticide valued at $550 million. Losses associated with lepidopteran pests, that can be controlled by cry1Ab, are estimated to cause losses of 4.5%, equivalent to half the total losses from insect pests of maize.

Potential global benefits of Bt maize

Bt maize has proved to be a safe and effective product. Having undergone rigorous testing for food and feed safety, it has provided environmentally friendly and effective control of targeted pests, and the resistance is still durable after seven years of deployment on 43 million hectares. It is the first Bt maize product widely commercialized with proactively implemented, science-based insect resistant management strategies featuring refugia (areas planted to non-Bt maize) combined with high dose technology. Global deployment of the cry1Ab gene in Bt maize has the potential to increase maize production by up to 35 million MT valued at $3.7 billion per year; yield gains due to Bt maize are estimated at 5% in the temperate maize growing areas and 10% in the tropical areas, where there are more and overlapping generations of pests leading to higher infestations and losses. From a global perspective the potential for Bt maize in the near to mid-term is substantial. There are several reasons for this:

  • Firstly, the cry1Ab gene has provided effective control of several of the primary pests of maize, principally the stem borers, and intermediate control for other caterpillar pests including armyworm and earworm. The successful performance of Bt maize (cry1Ab) has resulted in its rapid adoption on 43 million hectares in seven countries, since its introduction in 1996.
  • Secondly, new Bt products are already being launched including the cry3Bb1 gene for corn rootworm control in the US in 2003 and the cry1Fa2 gene that provides effective control of pests controlled by cry1Ab with enhanced control of fall armyworm and black cutworm. In addition there are five new Bt and novel gene products that are anticipated for launch in the next three years that will provide the necessary diversity in modes of action to allow even more effective control of a broader range of the principal insect pests of maize.
  • Thirdly, in addition to the significant advantages that Bt maize offers as a pest management tool, the product offers safer feed and food products than conventional maize with lower levels of harmful mycotoxins, an increasingly important attribute as food and feed safety is assigned higher priority. Of the three major staples, maize, wheat and rice, to-date maize is the only one that offers the significant benefits of commercialized biotechnology. Bt maize now offers an increasing range of options to meet the very diverse needs of the environments in which maize is grown.

Farmers assign Bt maize high value because it is a convenient and cost effective technology that allows them to manage risk in an uncertain environment and offers insurance against devastating crop losses in years when pest infestations are unusually high. For example, benefits from using Bt to control corn rootworm in the US alone, where it infests 13 million hectares, are projected at $460 million annually of which farmers would gain two-thirds and technology developers one-third. Producer gains of $289 million would be associated with increased yields, lower production costs and a significant decrease (2,300 MT a.i, or more) in insecticide use, which is currently the highest for any pest in the US. Global deployment of Bt or novel genes to control the principal lepidopteran pests of maize as well as corn rootworm has the potential to substitute up to 40 to 50% of the current 10,700 MT (a.i) of insecticides applied to maize globally, valued at approximately $550 million annually; this has significant environmental implications.

Challenges and Opportunities

The potential yield gains of up to 35 million MT, attainable from the first generation of Bt maize (cry1Ab), with more gains to come from the second generation of Bt maize and novel gene technology, represent a challenge and an opportunity to contribute to feed and food security in 2020, when, for the first time ever, maize demand will exceed the demands for wheat and rice. The challenge is to produce an additional 266 million MT globally to meet an unprecedented global demand totaling approximately 850 million MT of maize by 2020, fuelled by more demand for meat by a more affluent global society. The 35 million MT potential gain from Bt maize amounts to almost a 15% contribution to the additional 266 million MT needed by 2020. Of the additional 266 million tons required globally in 2020, 80%, or 213 million MT, will be required by developing countries and the formidable challenge for them is to optimize domestic production to meet most of their own additional needs, with imports expected to continue to provide only around 10%. It is projected that Bt maize has the technological potential to deliver benefits on 40 to 45 million hectares in the near to mid term compared with the 10 million hectares it occupies today. This should be an incentive for major maize consuming developing countries, such as China and Brazil, to approve and adopt Bt maize because of the significant and multiple benefits it offers, including less risks associated with food and feed security. The major constraints are the lack of regulatory capacity in many developing countries, with acceptance, and trade issues being equally important, especially relative to the market influence of the European Union. Bt maize is likely to continue to experience high growth rates in the near-term in the traditional markets of the US, Canada, Argentina, South Africa, Spain, Philippines and Honduras. Subject to regulatory approval and acceptance, Asia offers significant new opportunities particularly in China and in India, Indonesia, and Thailand. Other important markets include Brazil and Mexico in Latin America and Egypt, Kenya, and Nigeria on the African continent.

Acceptance will be the major factor governing approval and adoption in Eastern European countries such as Romania and Hungary, which are EU accession countries. In Western Europe, France, Italy and Germany have much to gain from the technology, but political considerations related to acceptance have continued to result in rejection of the technology except in Spain where Bt maize has been a success, occupying 10% of the national maize area in 2003, having doubled from 5% in 2002.

Bt maize is a proven safe and effective technology that has the potential to deliver benefits on 25 million hectares through hybrid systems in temperate mega-environments, amongst which China offers the most important opportunity. In the tropical environments with a potential of 18 million hectares of Bt maize through hybrid systems, the most important opportunity is in Brazil. Bt maize offers a unique opportunity and an incentive for major maize consuming developing countries to approve and adopt Bt maize and benefit from the multiple and significant benefits it offers in terms of a safer and more affordable food and feed, which can coincidentally make a major contribution to food and feed security and to the alleviation of hunger and malnutrition which claims 24,000 lives a day in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

List of Tables

Table 1

Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2002

Table 2

Global Area of Transgenic Crops in 2001 and 2002: Industrial and Developing Countries

Table 3

Global Area of Transgenic Crops in 2001 and 2002: by Country

Table 4

Global Area of Transgenic Crops in 2001 and 2002: by Crop

Table 5

Global Area of Transgenic Crops in 2001 and 2002: by Trait

Table 6

Dominant Transgenic Crops, 2002

Table 7

Transgenic Crop Area as % of Global Area of Principal Crops, 2002

Table 8

Estimated Value of Global Transgenic Seed Market, 1995 to 2002 ($ millions)

Table 9

Global Crop Protection Market in 2002: by Product (Value in $ millions)

Table 10

Value of Global Transgenic Crops in 2002: by Crop and Region ($ millions)

Table 11

Global Crop Protection Market, 2002: by Industrial/Developing Country and Product ($ millions)

Table 12

Global Crop Protection Market, in 2002: by Country Expressed as Percentage of Total Market

Table 13

Global Crop Protection Market, in 2002: by Crop Expressed as Percentage of Total Market

Table 14

Estimates of Global R&D Expenditures on Crop Biotechnology: 2001

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, 2002

Table 18

Global Hectarage of Maize (Millions of Hectares) by Global Region, 2002

Table 19

Top 10 Countries in Maize Production 2002

Table 20

Maize Area, Yield and Production for Top 25 Maize Countries in 2002

Table 21

Number of Maize Farmers in the World and Average Maize Holding per Farm

Table 22

Number of Global Maize Farmers, Expressed as % by Region

Table 23

Number of Maize Farmers (Millions) in China, by Region, and Average Maize

Area/Hectares per Farm

Table 24

Maize Hectarage Grown in the 4 Mega-Environments

Table 25

Current and Potential Yields (t/ha) in Developing Countries

Table 26

Area Sown to Maize Hybrids, Open Pollinated Varieties (OPVs) and Farmer-

Saved Seeds in the Regions in the Industrial and Developing Countries in 1999

Table 27

World Maize Utilization 1992 1994

Table 28

Maize, Wheat and Rice Demand Projections, 1997 and 2020 (Millions of Metric Tons [MT])

Table 29

Maize Demand for Developing Countries in 1997 and 2020 (Millions of Metric Tons [MT])

Table 30

Demand and Use of Maize in 2020

Table 31

Major Insect Species Causing Economic Losses in Maize in Tropical, Subtropical, Highland and Temperate Maize Mega-Environments

Table 32

Distribution and Severity of Principal Insect Pests in the US

Table 33

Distribution and Level of Infestation of Principal Insect Pests in China in Different Mega-Environments

Table 34

Distribution and Severity of Principal Insect Pests in Brazil in Different Mega-Environments

Table 35

Distribution of the Principal Maize Pests - Borers, Armyworms, Earworms (Lepidoptera) and Rootworms (Coleoptera) in the Top 25 Maize Countries with 1 Million Hectares, or More of Maize

Table 36

Estimated Average Levels of Infestation of Major Lepidopteran Pests and Rootworm in the Top 25 Maize Countries with 1 Million Hectares or More of Maize

Table 37

Range of Actual and Potential Losses from Maize Insect Pests for Different Global Regions

Table 38

Global and Regional Estimates of Crop Losses Due to Insect Pests of Maize

Table 39

Summary of Farm Level Impact on Yield of Bt Maize in the US 1997-2000

Table 40

Yield Advantage of Bt Maize in the US 1995 2002

Table 41

Estimates of Net National Economic Gains (Losses) to Farmers Planting Transgenic Bt Maize in USA 1996 2001

Table 42

Survey of Bt Maize Potential in Europe

Table 43

Yield Comparisons of Bt and Conventional Maize in Spain 1997 (MT/Hectare)

Table 44

Comparison of Performance of Bt and Conventional Maize in the Rhine Valley in Germany 1998-2002

Table 45

Comparison of Performance of Bt and Conventional Maize in the Oderbruch Region, Eastern Germany 2000-2002

Table 46

Profitability of Bt Maize Versus Conventional Maize in South Africa

Table 47

Summary of Yield Gains in Favor of Bt Maize (cry1Ab) and Estimates of Loss due to Stem Borers

Table 48

Global Distribution of Corn Rootworm

Table 49

Estimated Distribution of Benefits from Deploying Bt cry3Bb1 in the US in a Simulation for 2000

Table 50

Value and Quantity (MT a.i.) of Global Maize Insecticide Market, by Region, 2001

Table 51

Mode of Application of Insecticides in the USA and Brazil in MT a.i.

Table 52

Use of Insecticides on Maize in the US, by Target Pest, 2001

Table 53

Percentage of Maize Hectares Treated with Insecticides for Targeted Insect

Pests in Brazil

Table 54

Genetic Characteristics of Bt Maize

Table 55

Bt Maize Events that have been Approved for Commercial Planting

Table 56

Efficacy of Cry1Ab Protein in Controlling Selected Lepidopteran Maize Insect

Pests; Acute Sensitivity to Cry1Ab Endotoxin Protein

Table 57

Performance of MON 810 (cry 1Ab) for Controlling Selected Maize Insect Pests in Yield Gard Maize

Table 58

Efficacy of Event TC 1507 with the cry1Fa2 Gene in Herculex 1 Bt Maize

Table 59

Future Gene Products Conferring Resistance to Insect Pests of Maize

Table 60

Global Adoption of Bt Maize (Bt and Bt/Herbicide Tolerance) 1996 to 2002 (Millions of Hectares)

Table 61

Adoption of Bt Maize, by Country, by Year 1996 2002

Table 62

Gains Associated with Bt Maize in the US

Table 63

Distribution of Bt Maize Benefits to Different Stakeholders in the US

Table 64

Summary of Published Reports on the Potential Effect of Bt Maize Expressing Cry1Ab Protein on Non-Target Organisms and Predators

Table 65

Comparison of Bt Toxin No-Observable-Effects-Concentration (NOEC) in Soil, Relative to the Estimated Environmental Concentration (EEC)

Table 66

No-Observable-Effect-Level (NOEL) for Mortality Following Exposure of Rats to Purified Bt Toxic Protein

Table 67

Concentration of Protein (Microgram per Gram of Wet Plant Tissue) in Various Maize Tissues at Plant Maturity and Estimated Grams of Protein per Acre of Maize

Table 68

Health Effects of Fumonisins in Various Species

Table 69

Impact of Maize Grain Consumption and Fumonisin Level on the PMTDI

Table 70

Fumonisin (g/kg) and Ergosterol (mg/kg) Levels in Maize Kernels in Italy 1997, 1998 and 1999

Table 71

Levels of Mycotoxins, Fumonisin Recorded in Conventional Maize Grain

Table 72

Agricultural Trade Between US and EU: 2001

Table 73

US Maize Exports to Different Regions, 2001 Expressed as Percentage of Total Maize Exports

Table 74

US Exports of Maize to the EU

Table 75

Potential Global Area for Bt Maize (cry1Ab)

Table 76

Estimated Potential Gains from Deploying Bt Maize with the cry1Ab Gene for the Control of Maize Pests, Mainly Stem Borers, in the Top 25 Maize Growing Countries

Table 77

Estimation of Global Losses due to Maize Pests and Gains from Bt Maize

Table 78

Projected Relative Gains in Yield for Different Regions from Deploying Bt Maize with cry1Ab


Figure 1

Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2002

Figure 2

Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2002: Industrial and Developing Countries

Figure 3

Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2002: by Country

Figure 4

Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2002: by Crop

Figure 5

Global Area of Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2002: by Trait

Figure 6

Global Adoption Rates (%) for Principal Transgenic Crops, 2002

Figure 7

Distribution of World Maize Production

Figure 8

Illustration of Sites on the Maize Plant Where Principal Insect Pests Cause Damage

Figure 9

Maize Borer Map of the World

Figure 10

Global Distribution of Corn Rootworm

Figure 11

25 Top Maize Producing Countries with Details of Maize Area (Million Hectares [Mha], Proportion of Maize Area Infested (Low, Medium, High), and Principal Insect Pests

Figure 12

Yield Loss from European Corn Borer

Figure 13

European Corn Borer Densities in Illinois, 1943-2002

Figure 14

Global Adoption of Bt Maize (Bt and Bt/Herbicide Tolerance) 1996 to 2002 (Millions of Hectares)


Table 1A

Latest Estimates for Seed Exports Worldwide, by Crop (US$ Millions)

Table 2A

Latest Estimates for Seed Exports: Major Exporting Countries (US$ Millions)