Notes on Genetically Modified Soybean Plantings

Okay, I know there are divergent views on the subject of genetically modified (GM) crops, but one aspect that we can all agree on is that this technological development has boosted agricultural output tremendously in most parts of the world.

For this piece, my crosshairs are on global GM soybean planting. There are about 89 million hectares of GM soybean planted around the world, according to 2017 data from the International Grains Council. This is roughly 75% of the global soybean area planted.

Over the past 10-years, the area planted to GM soybeans grew by 13 percentages points, from 62% in 2007/08 to 75% in the 2016/17 production season. The key growing countries are the US, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, amongst others.

In Argentina and Uruguay, almost all the soybean grown is GM. Meanwhile, in Brazil and Paraguay, roughly 95% of the area planted is GM. In the US and Canada, the area planted with GM soybean is 94% and 75%, respectively.

On the African continent, it is only South Africa that plants GM soybean crops. In the 2016/17 production season, roughly 90% of the soybean area planted was under GM. Therefore, it is no coincidence that South Africa continues to enjoy tremendous growth in soybean output.

In the 2017/18 season, the country is expected to harvest a record crop of 1.4 million tonnes of soybeans. This phenomenal level of production, vis-à-vis other African countries, might not have been possible if it was not powered by GM technology.

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Author: Wandile Sihlobo

Wandile Sihlobo is an agricultural economist and head of agribusiness research at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) in South Africa. He is a columnist for Business Day and Farmers Weekly magazine. Sihlobo is a member of the South African Agricultural Economics Association. He has previously served as an economist at Grain South Africa. He holds a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from Stellenbosch University.

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