Developing World Surpasses the Developed in Growing GMO Crops

February 15, 2014 – Global planting of genetically modified (GMO) crops has increased by a factor of 100 since 1996 according to the latest information released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).

In 2012 according to a report released last year on GMO crops the Developing World represented 52% of all hectares dedicated to these types of crops. Farmers cultivated a record 170.3 million hectares of GMO crops in 2012. That represented an increase of 10.3 million hectares from 2011.

This trend to acceptance of GMO by an increasing number of farmers despite resistance from many who describe the produce as “frankenfoods,” speaks to its many benefits:


  1. Farmers in the Developing World are seeing the benefit of increased yields from GMO crops.
  2. Farmers are witnessing among their peers savings in fuel, time and machinery through the adoption of GMO crops.
  3. Farmers are seeing evidence of reduced pesticide use with better crop quality.
  4. Farmers are benefiting from being able to add additional growing cycles helping them to increase their income, better feed their families, and provide surpluses they can sell.


This unprecedented change in the Developing World has witnessed the adoption of GMO crops at a rate three times faster and five times bigger than in the Developed World. Globally 2012 saw a new record in the number of farmers adopting GMO with 90% of them, 15 million, represented by small plot growers from within Developing World countries. These farms, classified as subsistence in the past, now have the opportunity to free themselves from the cycle of continuous poverty.

I know that many of you reading this blog posting may be averse to GMO on principle. But the reality of food demand for a growing world population, most of it happening in the Developing World, is making GMO a technology of significance. Food security is overcoming fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Here are some additional statistics you may find interesting:


  • Of the 28 countries planting GMO crops in 2012, 20 were in the Developing World, 8 were in the Developed. That compares to 19 and 10 in 2011.
  • These 28 countries represent 4 billion people, 60% of the global population.
  • The United States is the leading grower of GMO crops with with 69.5 million hectares under cultivation and an average 90% adoption rate across all crops.
  • Brazil is second with 36.6 million hectares under cultivation in 2012.
  • India in 2012 cultivated 10.8 million hectares of GMO cotton with an adoption rate of 93%.
  • In China 7.2 million small farms cultivated 4 million hectares of GMO cotton at an adoption rate of 80% in 2012.


The European Union is the one region in the world that continues to question the science of GMO in food crops. This is the only part of the world where GMO crop planting declined with notably Germany, Sweden and Poland creating regulations that discouraged farmers from considering the technology.

In Africa where agriculture represents 35% of the gross domestic product and employs 70% of the labour force, population growth and changing climate are creating tensions around adoption of GMO crops.  GMO planting has been approved in Burkina Faso, Egypt and South Africa. But has been confined to test fields in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and a number of other African countries. This hesitancy is somewhat tied to the European Union’s policies of limited acceptance of GMO. But according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the demographic pressures will soon push African policy makers to adopt GMO as an answer to poverty and food challenges on the continent.



Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...