Global GM crop area dips for first time

The global area of genetically modified (GM) crops fell last year for the first time since the technology was first adopted two decades ago.

Image: Marilyn Peddle
Image: Marilyn Peddle

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) said the main cause for the 1 percent decline from 2014 levels was low commodity prices, leading farmers to plant less maize, soybeans and oilseed rape, both GM and conventional.

Three countries, the United States, Brazil and Argentina, account for more than three-quarters of the total global GM area, while four crops — maize, soy, oilseed rape and cotton — account for the majority of biotechnology use in agriculture. The GM share of these markets in several countries is now close to saturation, leaving little room for expansion.

Meanwhile expansion of the technology to other crops has been hindered by opposition from environmental groups and regulatory obstacles, the ISAAA said. Cultivation in the EU, where official opposition remains strong, fell 18 percent to around 140,000ha, almost all pest-resistant maize in Spain.

The plateauing of the technology is among the factors behind the recent consolidation within the global agri-tech industry, with DuPont and Dow merging, Syngenta being acquired by the China National Chemical Corporation, and Monsanto's earlier unsuccessful bid to buy Syngenta last year.

The value of the seeds was $15.3 billion in 2015, down from $15.7bn in 2014, accounting for just over one-third of the global commercial seed market, the report said.

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