News & Events

Where in the World are GM Crops and Food?


Distribution of Genetic Modification (GM) worldwide

Twenty years ago the Canadian government approved the first genetically modified (GM) foods and crops. The Canadian Biotechnology Network (CBAN) sees this as an opportunity to investigate and answer many of the still unanswered questions about the impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on our health, our environment, and our economy. We think it’s worth sharing. See below a few bullet points from their first report: “Where in the world are GM crops and food?”

  • Four GM crops account for 99% of worldwide GM crop hectarage. These are soy, corn, cotton and canola and half of all the GM hectares in the world are planted with GM soybeans.
  • GM corn accounts for 30% of the total global GM hectarage and GM cotton accounts for another 14%. GM canola accounts for 5% of the GM area in the world.
  • It is a misperception that there is a wide array of GM foods on the market. […] only 9 crops are grown commercially. [..]There are no commercialized GM varieties of a number of key global staple crops, including wheat, rice, barley, millet, sorghum, cassava, potato and yam.
  • Only 3.7% of the world’s agricultural land is being cultivated with GM crops, and less than 1% of the world’s farmers are growing GM crops.
  • The US was the first adopter of GM crops and is still the largest cultivator, accounting for 40.3% (73.1 million hectares) of the global area under GM crops in 2014. Brazil grows 23.3% (42.2 million hectares), and Argentina 13.4%.Together, these top three countries grow over three quarters – 77% – of the world’s GM crops. […] the top ten countries accounted for 98% of the total global GM hectarage in 2014.

  • Almost 100% of GM crops grown in the world are engineered with one, or both, of just two traits. These are herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. Herbicide-tolerant (Ht) crops are engineered to survive applications of particular herbicides, which would otherwise kill the crop plants. This means that the herbicide can be applied on an entire field, killing the weeds but leaving the GM crop standing. Insect-resistant crops are engineered with a gene from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is toxic to some insects. GM Bt plants are engineered to synthesize Bt endotoxin in their cells, making the entire plant toxic to some above- and/or below-ground insects such as butterflies and beetles.

  • In 2014, 57% of the world’s GM crops were engineered to be herbicide-tolerant, 15% were engineered to be toxic to pests, and 28% were “stacked” with both herbicide tolerance and insect resistance.
  • These two traits account for almost all the GM crops grown commercially over the past 20 years. Other traits – virus resistance and drought tolerance – collectively account for less than 1% of global GM crop hectares.
  • Global GM crop growth rates are largely a product of the fact that a few countries have rapidly adopted GM crops over the past 20 years. The total number of countries growing GM crops has not increased since 2010. While a few countries rapidly adopted GM crops when they were first introduced, slowing growth rates show that most other countries are not following suit.
  • Corporate concentration in the seed market can constrain farmers’ choices.


You can access the full report via the link here or through CBANs website.