ISAAA Brief 44-2012: Executive Summary. Global Status of Commercialised GM Crops: 2012

A record 170.3 million hectares of GM crops were grown globally in 2012, at an annual growth rate of six per cent, up 10.3 million from 160 million hectares in 2011.

Of the 28 countries which planted GM crops in 2012, 20 were developing and 8 were industrial countries. This compares with 19 developing and 10 industrial in 2011. Thus there are three times as many developing countries growing GM crops as there are industrial countries.

More than half the world’s population, 60 per cent or ~4 billion people, live in the 28 countries planting GM crops.

Two new countries, Sudan (Bt cotton) and Cuba (Bt maize) planted GM crops for the first time in 2012. Germany and Sweden could not plant the GM potato, Amflora because it ceased to be marketed; Poland discontinued planting Bt maize because of regulation inconsistencies in the interpretation of the law on planting approval between the EU and Poland; the EU maintains that all necessary approvals are already in place for planting whereas Poland does not. In 2012, Sudan became the fourth country in Africa, after South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt, to commercialize a GM crop – GM Bt cotton. A total of 20,000 hectares were planted in both rainfed areas and irrigated schemes. About 10,000 farmers were the initial beneficiaries who have an average of about 1-2.5 hectares of land. In a landmark event Cuba joined the group of countries planting GM crops in 2012. For the first time, farmers in Cuba grew 3,000 hectares of hybrid Bt maize in a “regulated commercialization” initiative in which farmers seek permission to grow GM maize commercially. The initiative is part of an ecologically sustainable pesticide-free program featuring GM maize hybrids and mycorrhizal additives. The Bt maize, with resistance to the major pest, fall armyworm, was developed by the Havana-based Institute for Genetic Engineering and GMnology (CIGB).

In 2012, a record 17.3 million farmers, up 0.6 million from 2011, grew GM crops – notably, over 90 per cent, or over 15 million, were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

For the first time, developing countries grew more, 52 per cent of global GM crops in 2012 than industrial countries at 48 per cent.

While 28 countries planted commercialized GM crops in 2012, an additional 31 countries totalling 59 have granted regulatory approvals for GM crops for import, food and feed use and for release into the environment since 1996. A total of 2,497 regulatory approvals involving 25 GM crops and 319 GM events have been issued by competent authorities in 59 countries, of which 1,129 are for food use (direct use or processing), 813 are for feed use (direct use or processing) and 555 are for planting or release into the environment. Of the 59 countries with regulatory approvals, USA has the most number of events approved (196), followed by Japan (182), Canada (131), Mexico (122), Australia (92), South Korea (86), New Zealand (81), European Union (67 including approvals that have expired or under renewal process), Philippines (64), Taiwan (52) and South Africa (49).

Global value of GM seed alone was ~US$15 billion in 2012. A 2011 study estimated that the cost of discovery, development and authorization of a new GM crop/trait is ~US$135 million. In 2012, the global market value of GM crops, estimated by Cropnosis, was US$14.84 billion, (up from US$13.35 billion in 2011); this represents 23 per cent of the US$64.62 billion global crop protection market in 2012, and 35 per cent of the ~US$34 billion commercial seed market. The estimated global farm-gate revenues of the harvested commercial “end product” (the GM grain and other harvested products) is more than ten times greater than the value of the GM seed alone.

Several new developing countries are expected to plant GM crops before 2015 led by Asia, and there is cautious optimism that Africa will be well-represented: the first GM based drought tolerant maize planned for release in North America in 2013 and in Africa by ~2017; the first stacked soybean tolerant to herbicide and insect resistant will be planted in Brazil in 2013; subject to regulatory approval, Golden Rice could be released in the Philippines in 2013/2014; drought tolerant sugarcane is a possible candidate in Indonesia, and GM maize in China with a potential of ~30 million hectares and for the future GM rice which has an enormous potential to benefit up to 1 billion poor people in rice households in Asia alone. GM crops, whilst not a panacea, have the potential to make a substantial contribution to the 2015 MDG goal of cutting poverty in half, by optimizing crop productivity, which can be expedited by public-private sector partnerships, such as the WEMA project, supported in poor developing countries by the new generation of philanthropic foundations, such as the Gates and Buffet foundations. Observers are cautiously optimistic about the future with more modest annual gains predicted because of the already high rate of adoption in all the principal crops in mature markets in both developing and industrial countries.