Publications: ISAAA Briefs
No. 23 - 2001
Chair, ISAAA Board of Directors
List of Tables and Figures
2. Overview of Global Status and Distribution of Commercial Transgenic Crops, 1996 to 2000
publication is the fifth in a series of ISAAA Briefs, which characterize
the global adoption of commercialized transgenic crops. A global database
for the first five-year period for GM crops, 1996 to 2000, is presented
and 2000 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 transgenic
seed market in the context of the global crop protection and seed markets;
status of regulation in Europe; a review of alliances, acquisitions
and activities in the biotechnology industry; a review of selected
highlights featuring transgenic crops during the last year, and an
assessment of the broadening political and institutional support for
GM crops globally; an overview of the attributes and economic benefits/advantages
associated with transgenic crops and finally some concluding comments
about the future.
The critics of biotechnology have always been skeptical about the ability of transgenic crops, more familiarly known as genetically modified (GM) crops, to deliver improved crop varieties that can impact on production and quality of crops at the farm level. The critics have been even more skeptical about 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 continuing to meet expectations of large and small farmers in both industrial and developing countries. In 2000, 3.5 million small and large farmers from industrial and developing countries grew and benefited significantly from the 44.2 million hectares of GM crops. As expected, global area planted to transgenic crops started to plateau in 1999 and this has continued in 2000 reflecting the unprecedented high adoption rates to-date; for example, GM soybean in Argentina now occupies more than 90% of the national soybean area and GM cotton more than 70% of the cotton area in the US. Of the total global area (conventional and transgenic) of 271 million hectares planted to soybean, canola, cotton and corn in 2000, 16%, equivalent to 44.2 million hectares, were planted with transgenic varieties. These 44.2 million hectares of transgenic crops grown globally are unprecedented, and equivalent to almost twice the total land area of the United Kingdom (24.4 million hectares). The global area of transgenic crops in 2000, comprised 36% of the 72 million hectares of soybeans planted globally, 16% of the 34 million hectares of cotton, 11% of the 25 million hectares of canola and 7% of the 140 million hectares of corn. Millions of farmers in 15 different industrial and developing countries around the world have made independent decisions after evaluating their first plantings of transgenic crops in 1996. Subsequently, the area of transgenic crops increased by an unprecedented multiple of more than 25-fold – this speaks volumes for the confidence and trust farmers have placed in transgenic crops. In China alone, within a short period of a few years, 3.0 million small resource-poor farmers have embraced Bt cotton in 2000 after witnessing at first hand in their own fields, the significant and multiple benefits Bt cotton can deliver.
of GM Crops Between
1996 and 2000, a cumulative total of fifteen countries, 10 industrial
and 5 developing, have contributed to more than a twenty-five fold
increase in the global area of transgenic crops from 1.7 million hectares
in 1996 to 44.2 million hectares in 2000. The accumulated area of transgenic
crops planted in the five-year period 1996 to 2000 totals 125 million
hectares, equivalent to more than 300 million acres. In 2000, a total
of 13 countries, 8 industrial and 5 developing countries, grew GM 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 per 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 1999 and 2000 were related to the following
Distribution of GM Crops
Between 1996 and 2000, a cumulative total of fifteen countries, 10 industrial and 5 developing, have contributed to more than a twenty-five fold increase in the global area of transgenic crops from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 44.2 million hectares in 2000. The accumulated area of transgenic crops planted in the five-year period 1996 to 2000 totals 125 million hectares, equivalent to more than 300 million acres. In 2000, a total of 13 countries, 8 industrial and 5 developing countries, grew GM 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 per 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 1999 and 2000 were related to the following factors:
Value of the GM Crop Seed Market and Industry Developments
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 pace of biotechnology investments in industry, which is a concern to some, slowed in 2000. One of the features of industry changes was the spinning-off of agbiotech divisions from life science companies with a view to merging with like-divisions from other life science companies to create the necessary critical mass. Most corporations have already undergone substantial restructuring, and completed spin-offs and mergers. Investments in plant genomics continue to grow and are of pivotal importance for future growth. 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. 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 most compelling case for biotechnology is its potential contribution to global food security and the alleviation of poverty and hunger in the Third World.
GM Crop Highlights
Global highlights for transgenic crops during the last year or so are discussed under six topics:
highlights re transgenic crops including a summary of the recent set
of six papers published by the US National Academy of Sciences that
provides reassuring evidence that the widely publicized claim by critics
that the Monarch butterfly was being threatened by Bt corn, proved
to be unfounded.
Statements and reports by politicians, policy makers, national programs and organizations that reflect a broadening political and institutional support for crop biotechnology and a recognition of its increasingly important contribution to global food security and a more sustainable agriculture.
Attributes and Benefits of GM Crops
The unprecedented rapid adoption of transgenic crops during the five-year period 1996 to 2000 reflects the significant multiple benefits realized by large and small farmers in the 15 industrial and developing countries that have grown transgenic crops commercially. There is a growing body of convincing evidence that clearly demonstrates the improved weed and insect pest control attainable with transgenic herbicide tolerant and insect resistant Bt crops, that also benefit from lower input and production costs; GM crops offer significant economic advantages to farmers compared with corresponding conventional crops. The severity of weed and insect pests varies from year to year and hence this will directly impact on pest control costs and economic advantage. Despite the on-going debate on GM crops, particularly in countries of the European Union, millions of large and small farmers in both industrial and developing countries continue to increase their plantings of GM crops because of the significant multiple benefits they offer. This high adoption rate is a strong vote of confidence in GM crops, reflecting grower satisfaction. Several studies have confirmed that farmers planting herbicide tolerant and insect resistant Bt crops are more efficient in managing their weed and insect pests.
specifically the use of transgenic crops results in:
More specifically the use of transgenic crops results in:
Economic Advantages of GM Crops
There is an increasing body of compelling evidence that transgenic crops are delivering significant economic benefits and case studies are documented in this overview. The “global” economic advantage to farmers deploying herbicide tolerant (HT) soybean, Bt cotton, HT canola and Bt corn is estimated to be of the order of $ 700 million in 1999, equally shared between developing and industrial countries; of the $710 million, approximately 60 % is derived from HT soybean, 30 % from Bt cotton, and 10 % from HT canola. The estimate of $ 710 million is intended to provide an order of magnitude assessment of the direct economic advantage to 2 million small and large farmers who planted 39.9 million hectares of transgenic crops in 1999; in addition to these direct economic advantages that farmers derive from transgenic crops, several studies have confirmed that there are also significant additional indirect benefits to others in society. For crops such as herbicide tolerant soybean, these indirect benefits to consumers globally can be of the same order of magnitude as the direct economic advantage of $ 700 million to farmers in 1999. Thus, the “global” direct and indirect economic advantage associated with the 39.9 million hectares of transgenic crops in 1999 is likely to be of the order of $ 1 billion or more. There is no evidence to support the perception of the critics of biotechnology that the transnational developers of transgenic crops are the sole or major beneficiaries from transgenic crops. On the contrary, studies to-date confirm that not only are farmers significant beneficiaries, but they are usually the major beneficiaries, taking on average from one-third to one-half of the total economic surplus generated by transgenic crops.
Finally, an important finding of the China Bt cotton study was that the smallest farmers, those farming less than 1 hectare, gained more than twice as much income per unit of land ($ 400 per hectare) from Bt cotton, as the larger farmers ($ 185 per hectare). This finding is important from an equity/distribution viewpoint and is deserving of further investigation for Bt cotton and other transgenic crops that offer promise to small resource poor farmers. It also has important implications in relation to the claim often made by critics of transgenic crops that they are inappropriate for small farmers. Indeed, by far the largest benefits reported to-date from the studies reviewed here have been for small farmers who can least afford the loss in yield due to pests, and stand to gain the most from increases in income and suffer less health hazards resulting from fewer applications of conventional insecticide.
An estimated 3.5 million farmers grew transgenic crops in 2000 and derived multiple benefits that included significant agronomic, environmental, health and economic advantages. In 2001 the number of farmers planting GM crops is expected to grow substantially to 5 million or more. Global area planted to transgenic crops is expected to continue to grow by 10% or more in 2001 despite the unprecedented high percentage of the principal crops already planted to transgenics in the USA, Argentina, Canada and China. In 2001, these top four countries are expected to report a further significant increase in the area of transgenic crops. The other ten countries growing transgenic crops in 2000 are expected to report modest growth in GM crop area, except France and Germany, which will probably continue to grow a small token area of Bt maize. South Africa is expected to continue to diversify and expand its portfolio of transgenic crops, with Australia approving and commercializing more traits in cotton. Indonesia will commercialize Bt cotton for the first time. India is progressing towards approval of Bt cotton which could occur in early 2002. The commercialization of herbicide tolerant soybean in Brazil will be dependent on resolving the outstanding issues between the Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Justice. The commercialization of GM crops in India and Brazil will represent a watershed for developing countries in that the three most populous countries in Asia – China, India, and Indonesia with 2.5 billion people, as well as the three major economies of Latin America – Argentina, Mexico and Brazil, plus South Africa will then all be commercializing and benefiting from transgenic crops.
The issue that will modulate adoption of specific products in some countries in 2001 will be public acceptance, which drives market demand, regulation and commodity prices. These issues will be the factors that will impact on commercial planting of transgenic crops and consumption of genetically modified derived foods in countries of the European Union. However, progress is expected in the near- to mid-term in the countries of Eastern Europe which have advanced field tests in progress. Several countries in the developing world are expected to proceed with field trials of Bt cotton, which has already delivered substantial benefits to both small and large farmers in several countries, notably China where approximately 3 million small farmers derived significant benefits in 2000.
The shift from the current generation of “input” agronomic traits to the next generation of “output” quality traits, is expected to proceed slowly and will be modulated by national regulations and possibly the next round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO). With the acceptance of the first “quality” products, which will improve the nutritional value of food and feed products, significant value will be added to the GM crop market and it should provide a stimulus to de-commoditize grain and oil seed markets. This shift will not only serve to significantly increase the value of the global transgenic crop market but will also broaden the beneficiary profile from growers to processors and consumers. Food products derived from transgenic crops that are healthier and more nutritious could impact on public acceptance, particularly in Europe.
Significant progress has been made in the first five-year period 1996 to 2000 with an accumulated area of 125 million hectares of transgenic crops planted in 15 industrial and developing countries. As new and novel products with input and output traits will become available for commercialization in the next five years, it is critical that these products be deployed in an integrated strategy in which both conventional and biotechnology applications are applied to attain the challenging goal of global food security. Adoption of such a strategy will allow society to continue to benefit from the vital contributions that both conventional and modern plant breeding offer. Biotechnology can play a critical role in achieving food security in the developing world in countries such as China, which has assigned 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 3.0 million small farmers benefited from planting Bt cotton in 2000, Argentina and South Africa should be shared with other countries in the developing world which face the same challenges.
Governments, supported by the global scientific and international development community, must ensure continued safe and effective testing and introduction of transgenic crops and implement regulatory programs that inspire public confidence. Leadership at the international level must be exerted by the international scientific community and development institutions to stimulate discussion and to share knowledge on transgenic crops with society. The public should be well informed and engaged in a dialog about the impact of the technology on the environment, food safety, sustainability and global food security. Societies in food surplus countries must ensure that access to biotechnology is not denied or delayed to developing countries seeking to access the new technologies in their quest for food security. After all, the most compelling case for biotechnology, more specifically transgenic crops, is their potential vital contribution to global food security and the alleviation of hunger in the Third World. In summary, we must ensure that society will continue to benefit from the vital contribution that plant breeding offers, using both conventional and biotechnology tools, because improved crop varieties are, and will continue to be the most cost-effective, environmentally safe, and sustainable way to ensure global food security in the future.
Shortly before this review went to press, two major events of global significance impacted on our continuing ability as a society to alleviate poverty and malnutrition. Following the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, the World Bank predicted that poverty would increase with millions more people condemned to poverty in 2002. More specifically, the Bank predicts that global poverty will increase by 10 million more people in 2002. Developing country growth rates could be as low as 2.9% in 2001 compared with 5.5% in 2000. For 2002, lowered growth rates for developing countries in the range of 3.5 - 3.8 percent are projected, compared with the 4.3 percent prediction made before 11 September. Africa is expected to suffer most of the economic damage from the continued economic slowdown of industrial countries with an additional 2 million Africans surviving on less than $1 a day. Africa is judged to be particularly vulnerable because many African nations do not have the means to stabilize their economies when agricultural commodity prices, on which they are dependent, fall. Consequently “farmers, rural laborers, and others tied to agriculture will bear a major portion of the burden.” The Bank recommended that donor countries increase aid, reduce trade barriers for developing countries, and urged the donor community to coordinate its economic reform policies.
The Potential Role of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
The other major global event that will impact more directly on the contribution of transgenic crops to the alleviation of poverty and hunger in the developing countries is the World Trade Organization Meeting held in Doha, Qatar, 9 to 13 November 2001, with 142 members in attendance. It is noteworthy that China, a world leader in transgenic crops, was admitted as a member of WTO on 10 November 2001. China’s membership of WTO has many significant implications for its own future strategy on GM crops, but could also be pivotal for other developing and industrial countries committed to utilizing GM crops to achieve global food, feed and fiber security. Unlike the last WTO meeting in Seattle, this time the world’s major trading partners including the US and Europe have had pre-meeting exchanges to discuss a draft of a new trade agreement that addresses trade liberalization in agriculture and textiles which comprise 70% of exports from developing countries; the TRIPS agreement (Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property rights) is also being reviewed, albeit in the context of public health and pharmaceuticals, but there may be some important implications for agriculture. This represents significant progress which brings hope to many developing countries which have suffered under the terms of the Uruguay round concluded in 1994.
is a key international organization that can ensure that GM crops are
accessible to those developing countries that seek to use them to alleviate
poverty and hunger and achieve food security. In the new round of trade
talks WTO should address the key issues that would facilitate the implementation
of the principal recommendation of the well-received 2001 UNDP Human
Development Report - to
utilize biotechnology and information technology to alleviate poverty
in developing countries. More specifically WTO can address several
critical issues that impact on developing countries seeking to utilize
biotechnology to achieve food security. The most urgent and important
issues for WTO to address and remedy are:
As this review went to press, the latest and encouraging news from WTO, was that members had reached consensus on the Doha Development Agenda, with Africa in particular welcoming the agreement because of the potential for more open markets for exports. The most difficult issue to resolve was the EU farm subsidies which the EU agreed to phase out, provided that it does not “prejudice the outcome” of the negotiations. However, some developing countries voiced concern that the EU may use environmental restrictions to preclude the importation of GM products. Reaching a consensus on freer trade was very important because it will provide WTO with the necessary solidarity amongst members prior to addressing the outstanding and important issues that need to be resolved in relation to biotechnology, that offers the developing countries a unique opportunity for alleviating poverty and achieving food security.
List of Figures