Genetic strains

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Some 18% of the total OECD arable and permanent cropland area was sown with transgenic crops in the period including 2008 to 2010.

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The United States dominates OECD commercial production of genetically modified crops, while regulations in European OECD countries and Korea prevent commercial exploitation, with only small areas sown for experimental purposes.

The OECD area of land dedicated to growing transgenic crops has grown rapidly since the mid-1990s, especially in Canada and the US, particularly herbicide tolerant crops that include soybean, maize, canola and cotton. OECD countries account for slightly more than half of the world global planted area of transgenic crops, but countries such as Argentina, Brazil, China and India have expanded use of these crops substantially over the past decade. The development of transgenic crops has led to ongoing discussions and debate on the potential environmental costs and benefits of using these crops, not to mention safety for human health. Some experts believe transgenic crops bring benefits, particularly for development by improving resistance to drought and pests. Concerns have been raised over the risks of genetic mingling of traditional species and wild relatives, such as maize in Mexico. Mexico is recognised as a “Vavilov” centre, which is an area where crops like maize were first domesticated and have evolved healthily over several thousand years.


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©OECD Observer No 295, Q2 2013 

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