Current genetically modified (GM) crops available on the market and/or under development can be classified into three categories:
- GM crops with improved traits that benefit the farmer such as herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, and abiotic-stress tolerance such as drought.
- GM crops with traits that benefit processors and consumers, such as nutrient enhancement, longer post-harvest shelf life, ease of processing.
- GM crops that can be used to produce pharmaceuticals or industrial products such as bio-fuels, higher fiber content, higher starch composition.
Most of the GM crops currently available on the market are targeted toward traits of benefit to farmers.
GM crops research in Africa
Research for development of GM crops is on-going in a number of African countries. The specific crops and traits of choice in each of these countries depend on the economic importance and nature of constraints in production or utilization. In Africa, countries are at various stages of biotechnology research and development.
A new article (Avril 2013) titled “Genetically modified crops under research and development in Africa” is available here.
GM crops research in Europe
In Europe, 21 countries have received notification to conduct a total of 2296 confined field trials (CFTs) for GM crops, as presented in Table 2 – Summary of notifications for confined field trials by EU Member Country compared with North America (GM Compass, 2008). France has the highest number of CFTs notifications (598), followed by Spain (437), Italy (295), United Kingdom (248), and Germany (196). Maize is the crop with the highest number of CFTs notifications submitted (772), while herbicide tolerance is the leading trait (1130). Figure 1 shows number of application approved every year in Europe and North America during 1992 to 2008. The decline in approval in Europe in 2000-01 was influenced by two problems. First, the “mad cow” incidence which took place in 2000 in many European countries and the Governments were slow to respond to the problem, which led to public distrust of their authorities’ ability to regulate and manage risks. Second, in 2001 there were reports that Starlink GM corn, which was approved in the US for animal feed only, was found in some food products.
Field testing of GM crops in North America
Table 2 also provides the total number of CFTs conducted in USA from1992 to 2008 and in Canada from 2004 to 2008. GM crops and traits that were under confined field testing in North America in 2007 are presented in Tables 3 and 4.
Table 3 – Crops tested in confined field trials in the United States and Canada in 2007
Table 4 – Traits approved for confined field testing in the USA and Canada
Field testing of GM crops Worldwide
Extensive research and development activities on GM crops are also being conducted in Asia, Australia and South America. Information regarding confined field testing of GM crops being conducted by in the various countries around the world please visit http://www.isb.vt.edu/.
GM Compass http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/agri_biotechnology/field_trials/228.summary_gmo_field_trials_eu_year_crop_trait.html Statistics are based on number of applications submitted, November 2008.
Karembu, M., Nguthi F. and Ismail H. (2009) Biotech Crops in Africa: The Final Frontier, ISAAA AfriCenter