PANNA: Area Planted With Transgenic Crops Up in 1999


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Area Planted With Transgenic Crops Up in 1999
June 29, 2000

The area planted with genetically engineered (GE) crops worldwide jumped to 39.9 million hectares in 1999, an increase of 44%, according to a new brief by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). The report, “Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 1999,” details trends in GE crop use.

Today’s 39.9 million hectares of GE crops is up more than twenty fold from the 1.7 million hectares planted in 1996. The ISAAA says this adoption rate is the highest for any new technology by agricultural industry standards.

Twelve countries grew GE crops in 1999. They are presented in the following table.

Global area of GE crops in 1999, by country (millions of hectares)



% of total

Increase from 1998

United States28.7728.2
Chinaapprox. 0.310.2
South Africa0.1<1<0.1

Three countries, Portugal, Rumania and Ukraine, planted GE crops for the first time.

Industrial countries accounted for 82% of the total, less than in 1998 (84%), with 18% grown in developing countries (mostly Argentina).

As in 1998, the biggest GE growing countries had the largest increases in 1999: the U.S. (8.2 million hectares), Argentina (2.4 million hectares), and Canada (1.2 million hectares).

Seven GE crops were grown in 1999. There are presented in the following table.

Global area of GE crops in 1999, by crop (millions of hectares)



% of total

Increase from 1998


GE soybean and corn continued to be the biggest GE crops in 1999. Cotton and canola shared the third ranking position in 1999, each accounting for about 9% of global area.

The principal GE traits were roughly the same in 1998 and 1999, with herbicide tolerance still the most common, at 71% in both 1998 and 1999. Although insect resistant (Bt) crops decreased from 28% in 1998 to 22% in 1999, crops that are both insect resistant and herbicide tolerant increased from 1% in 1998 to 7% in 1999. The remaining less than 1% was accounted for by virus resistance traits in potatoes, squash and papaya in both 1998 and 1999.

Looking at both crop and GE trait, 82% of all GE crops in 1999 were accounted for by three GE varieties: Herbicide tolerant soybean (54%), Bt corn (19%) and herbicide tolerant canola (9%).

Revenues for GE crops have grown about thirty fold from 1995 to 1999. Sales were estimated at US$75 million in 1995, $235 million in 1996, $670 million in 1997, $1.6 billion in 1998 and $2.1 to 2.3 billion in 1999.

ISAAA says that the area planted to GE crops is expected to grow but will likely begin to level off in 2000 given high adoption rates so far. There is also some uncertainty about whether U.S. growers will be influenced by concerns about GE crops, with 2000 being considered “an important test.”

ISAAA works to transfer biotechnology to developing countries. A preview of their report is available online at

Source: ISAAA. 1999. Global Status of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 1999. ISAAA Briefs No.12: Preview. ISAAA: Ithica, NY.

Contact: PANNA.

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